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Book Review: Bleachy-Haired Honky Bitch – Tales from a Bad Neighborhood by Hollis Gillespie

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I read a spectacularly funny blog called Sex with George Clooney.  It was essentially Clooney kissing Hollis Gillespie on their introduction and again as they separated, and the writer morphed it into the funniest story about a non-sexual encounter I think I've ever read. 

George Clooney got my attention first, and her story was really FUNNY.  When I read the author's details, I learned Gillespie lives in Atlanta (so do I), writes for Creative Loafing, and her third book has just been published. 

That led me to Amazon, where I found both Bleachy-Haired Honky Bitch : Tales from a Bad Neighborhood, and its follow-up, Confessions of a Recovering Slut: And Other Love Stories, which I immediately scooped up (even though I did hesitate over the choice of names . . . ) because if her little blog on GC was so good, I knew the books would be hysterical.  And how could I not support a hometown girl?

Bleachy-Haired Honky Bitch (a name she was called by a street bum midway through the first book) was pretty sad.  Even though the Gillespie makes fun of her family (a mom who designs bombs and a dad who is a heavy drinking, out-of-work trailer salesman) it becomes obvious that she loved them a lot, and she knows they could have done better at what little parenting they attempted . . . allowing her to try smoking at two (is that a stretch?), which she continued til she was 13 . . . serving Halloween candy for breakfast… her mother moving out of the house when Hollis was 16, kicking her father out of the house, but not moving back (to live with and supervise Hollis and her 14-year-old sister).  They lived there for months, just the two girls, because her mother didn't want to leave the her new singles apartment complex.

Hollis does interesting work, as a flight attendant and translator for the airlines, and goes to all the places in Europe I haven't, but she does so with a trash mouth that gets fatiguing fairly quickly. I'm not a saint, but for someone who is told by her father that she is smarter "than anyone" Ms. Gillespie's vocabulary is severely limited to the four letter word list, and is occasionally sprinkled with one that makes you wonder if she looked it up just for that chapter.

While Bleachy Haired covers mostly childhood through her early adulthood – Confessions of a Recovering Slut: And Other Love Stories takes up her pregnancy and the emotional changes she experienced as she drew toward childbirth.  It rehashes a great deal of the subject matter from Bleachy Haired, as if they are serialized and perhaps the first was not read by everyone reading the second.  And for those of us who read them both? Oh, well, they are slightly rearranged.

All of the above aside, I think the thing that bothered me the most was that every story in both books follows a rigid formula.  They aren't chapters that tell a story in direct order, but chunks here and there of things remembered.  Each of them begins with a memory of something someone did, and then she wrestles the memory into a morality play tying the past in with her present and ALWAYS a finish that is a direct replay of the beginning.  Too tidy.  And too often!

That whole circle style of writing works well in a larger arena, say one story that is epic sized, but reading 20 or thirty little circle stories all in a row, one wonders what she did with the education she tells us she got at Oxford, and how she got three of those formulaic books published when they mostly all tell the same stories: Bad parents, gay men friends, crack houses, lots of cussing.

I don't think I'll go for the third in the set, Trailer Trashed: My Dubious Efforts Toward Upward Mobility, even if she is from my hometown.

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  • WOW! What a great review! Even though the reviewer – Trace – wasn’t too thrilled with the books it makes me curious to read them for myself! Thanks for the info!