Bret Lott’s Jewel

by Jess

I just finished reading Bret Lott’s extraordinarily mediocre novel Jewel.  It sure was a book, all right.  The prose was as bland as cornmush, but the plot was at least at little engaging.  It follows the story of a family with a child born with Down syndrome, back in 1943, when they still called them Mongolian idiots.  The blurb on the back says Lott has created “one of the finest, most indomitable heroines in contemporary American fiction.”  I disagree.  I found Jewel to be rather flat.  Yes, I suppose she fights for her daughter, Brenda Kay, to have some sort of decent life, but they don’t really have to battle against all that much.  Everybody loves Brenda Kay, and the poor rural Mississippi family even finds the wherewithal to move to California so Brenda Kay can attend a special school.  Hooray and stuff.

That said, I found something that’s really worth reading: Jim Windolf’s Vanity Fair article on how America is addicted to cuteness.  Windolf is an intolerable grouch, but the article is hilarious, and he includes tons of great links to articles and photos and videos — all the adorable symptoms of our cuteness addiction.  Enjoy.