FTMN Book Club – Diary of a Teenage Girl
For the first edition of this book club, I’m taking a look at a book that I had already started reading before deciding to start this series. And even then, I only barely finished the book before the end of the month. The Diary of a Teenage Girl is a little of what you might expect and a lot of what you wouldn’t. It’s formatted to resemble a teenager’s diary and in fact it actually does contain excerpts of the author’s actual teenage diary combined with additional entries to fill out the entire story, though there is no distinction on which ones are real and which ones are new. It also combines those diary entries with pictures and comics that enhance and in several cases further the story. But what makes this book unique is the frank descriptions of teenage sex and drugs from a very teenage point of view.
I won’t get too far into comparisons between the film and the book but there are a couple notable changes. For one thing, the book feels much more realistic, especially the way the diary is written. While there is enough information to tell a complete story, it still completely feels like a teenager’s diary. It’s complete with run on sentences, and a whole lot of unnecessary repetition. Something that feels like it should be a mistake, but it also feels like something a teenager would include to add emphasis. The film also feels a bit more romanticized and focused on Minnie and Monroe’s relationship as if it were a pseudo healthy one. Not only that, but when she falls into the hard drugs of Tabitha’s world, she merely flirts with them in the film while she goes in with both feet in the book and suffers the consequences.
I will say that as a middle aged white guy who grew up in the 80’s, Minnie’s story is difficult to wrap my head around. When I was in high school, I was the quiet, smart kid who hung around the outside of cliques and didn’t have a girlfriend until college. Minnie is almost the exact opposite of that. The one commonality are the occasional thoughts of depression and worthlessness that most people feel at one point or another in their teenage lives (and beyond). She also writes constantly about her thoughts of sex and her affair with her mother’s sometimes boyfriend Monroe who is the age I am now. And Monroe is also not a character that I have any interest in identifying with as he is the epitome of sleaze despite Minnie’s need for affection and acceptance from him. At least until the end of the diary.
The book paints a fascinating picture of the life of Minnie Goetz and by proxy Phoebe Gloeckner. There are plenty of small details about television, music, and especially the underground comics based in San Francisco. The artwork is an interesting combination of single pictures that help expand the text on the page, realizations of Minnie’s early stages of comic drawing, and sequential comic pages that actually further the story in between diary entries. The whole package is something that feels unique and I could easily picture this being packaged in a three ring binder the way that Minnie describes it within the diary itself. It was definitely an interesting experience reading this, even though it did feel at times like I was reading something I wasn’t supposed to be reading. Getting an unexpected insight into the author’s life even though there’s no way to know for sure which parts were true to life, which were filled out through memory and time, and which if any were complete fabrications to make Minnie’s life more interesting than Phoebe’s. Nonetheless, I thought it was a worthy read and yes, the book was better. The book for March’s FTMN Book Club will be announced here tomorrow, or you can look on my Twitter feed if you can’t wait. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.