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The Journal of the Lincoln Heights Literary Society
Miscellanea and Ephemeron

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04/12/2005 Archived Entry: "Book review: The Diva's Guide to Selling Your Soul"

The Diva's Guide to Selling Your Soul
By Kathleen O'Reilly
Publisher: Downtown Press, New York: 2005

Review by Kelly S. Taylor

Let me say first off that this is a cute book. It will make a really cute movie. If no one makes this book into a movie, then everyone is passing up a perfectly good chick-flick making opportunity -- And not just any chick-flick either -- One that can star a name-brand female actress just on the edge of her expiration date. Look in People or Us for lists of A-list (for the moment) celebs who have become eligible just this week. How great would that be? Might even get Liz Hurley to play the devil again.

Yes, the devil is a woman in this book. Interesting choice, I know.

Well, I'm not going to say the plot is formulaic, but here's the recipe if you want to try this at home. Start with a couple pounds of Faust. Stir in an equal portion of Sex in the City. Add a dash of Bewitched and just a hint of Harlequin Romance. Garnish with enough name-dropping and product placement to choke a horse and serve.

Which is not to say this is a bad book. Kathleen O'Reilly is a good cook... I mean, author. The dialogue is witty. The narrative is clever. The plot jaunts forward briskly with the panache of Carrie Bradshaw on Fifth Avenue. The end, though not entirely surprising, at least managed to borrow from a different source than I anticipated. This is an absolutely perfect, summer-at-the-beach, read-the-funny-parts-out-loud-to-your-girlfriends novel.

What bothered me about the book was the title. O'Reilly says she was inspired to write the novel after seeing the cover of "The Devil Wears Prada." When she found out that book was actually about the fashion industry, she set out to write the novel she had imagined went with the title -- one in which the Devil integrates him/herself into NYC's fast lane. "The Devil Wears Prada" would be a perfect title for this book. Unfortunately that one was already taken. After some back and forth with her publishers she ended up with "The Diva's Guide to Selling Your Soul" which in turn caused me to imagine a very different work. My "Diva's Guide to Selling Your Soul" would have to be a tragedy instead of comedy. What is a diva without her diva soul? What could ever induce a diva to sell the very thing that makes her a diva?

Be warned, reader divas, "V," the heroine of this book, is not really a diva. She sells her soul for thin thighs and a trendy purse shop. She does not know that being a diva is not about how you look or what you wear. It's not about what (or who) you do. In some ways it's more about what you don't have to do. All true divas know that being a diva is having at least one point of absolute confidence about some ability or attribute you possess. Poor "V" doesn't have absolute confidence in anything about herself. Even as Satan's minion with superpowers (perks of the Devil's Life Enhancement Program), she's still a job-scared lackey with a low opinion of herself.

You can tell she's not a real diva by the powers she craves. At the beginning of the book, she's trying to convert one more of her acquaintances to sell their soul... I mean, join the Life Enhancement Program so "V" can become a Level Four and gain mind-reading abilities. What could be more useless to a true diva? When a diva is in her element, she knows what people are thinking. They're thinking, "You thrill and amaze me." If they're not thinking that, then they can't appreciate genius and therefore what they're thinking is probably not going to be that interesting.

"V" is definitely not a diva when she sells her soul. Despite her "life enhanced" bling, she is not a diva when we meet her. Ultimately, I suppose the book is the story of "V's" journey to find the confidence to become the sort of person who would never sell her soul -- to find out how to be a real diva instead of just acting mean and having things a diva might buy or wear.

I could've told her... and I'm only a part-time diva. But then again, I am a part-time, semi-retired diva who is charged by the State of Texas (whether they know it or not) with seeing to the care and training of fledgling divas and making sure that they have the points of confidence they need to not sell their souls to corporate America, frat boys, Jenny Craig or whatever form the devil happens to be taking this week.

Hey, maybe I should write a book....

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