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Book Review: My Boyfriend Wrote a Book About Me by Hilary Winston

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Hilary Winston’s ex-boyfriend “Kyle” had published a novel that, though he claimed it was purely fictional, according to Winston drew heavily and sometimes exactly from their relationship and conversations.  She was unaware of the book until she stumbled on upon it at a Barnes & Noble.  I can only imagine the horror.  And so was born My Boyfriend Wrote a Book about Me: And Other Stories I Shouldn’t Share with Acquaintances, Coworkers, Taxi Drivers, Assistants, Job Interviewers,… and Ex/Current/Future Boyfriends but Have.  Winton’s book is a look back at her romantic relationships (with an emphasis on the “Kyle” one) and a sometimes excoriation of the men involved in them.

The first word that comes to mind upon consideration of this book is “oy.”  The oy (as all the most profound ones are) is two-fold.  It is an “oy” for the author who has suffered a string of painful and damaging relationships. And it is an “oy” for Winston’s book which is, to speak plainly, a mess.

It was engaging enough (for me who loves personal stories like these – not likely for anyone else – and particularly not likely for most men), but I don’t think that says much.  I’m pretty sure that when I read The Notebook several years ago (I’ve since become too snobby for such “beach reads”), I sped through it.  But oddly enough, that doesn’t mean I enjoyed it.  Seemingly paradoxically, there are films and books that have strained my attention more than others but that ultimately I still enjoy far more than ones that are just time-passers.

I didn’t expect Winston’s book to be a revelation, but I was hoping that it would be enlightening or at least touching.  It was not, except for the story of losing her cat at the end of the book. And since the author is a comedy writer (for the show Community, which I’ve heard tell is funny), I also thought that, if not enriching, at least it would be a humorous read.  It barely was.  I don’t know if this is just a case of my not enjoying this particular person’s style of humor or if she is best left to scripted dialogue.  Or maybe if this subject matter is just too fraught with Winston’s obvious insecurity and pain to enable her humor its true expression.

And beyond the fact of the book’s lack of literary value, it is quite painful to be exposed to Winston’s self-loathing and constant (and I mean constant) negative references to her physical appearance.  It’s not that I’m without sympathy for her.  I’m rooting for her to come to terms with what, at least at the time of the writing, is obviously still a painful emotional relationship to what happened with Kyle.  I’m cheering Winston on to find a guy who, well…maybe to start, a guy who doesn’t refer to women as “bitches.”  Baby steps.  But I got the strong sense from the book that it might be difficult for Winston to find love if she doesn’t start offering herself compassion and begin to cultivate more inner confidence.

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