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Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2008

Single in the City?

Life in the jungle of love

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  How to Be Single by Liz Tuccillo, co-author of He's Just Not That Into You, is a book that attempts to tackle the massive conundrum of single life for women: It's important to be happy while single, but who wants to spend time working on being happy and single when you can spend time finding a man to make you happy? And that, quite frankly, is the downfall of this book for me, though it might serve as satisfying chick-lit for the masses.

  Tuccillo, one of HBO's Emmy Award-winning executive story editor's for "Sex and the City," puts her personal spin on the single life of a 38-year-old woman in today's New York City. Unfortunately, much of the book's outline seemed like a knock-off of the story line in "Sex and the City"-single women in the big city sorting things out in the concrete jungle of love.

  Tuccillo begins with an explanation of how the main character, Julie, and four friends found themselves alone in the Big Apple, all single for different reasons: Georgia is the recently divorced and newly single parent of two; Alice is the ambitious lawyer with a heart who decides to dedicate her life to finding her soul mate; Serena is the vegetarian, Zen friend; Ruby the warm-loving, gullible, sensitive friend; and Julie is the professionally single, sassy and sarcastic narrator guiding the reader through every one of their melodramatic fiascos.

  Immediately, we see that each character is quite the caricature. Tuccillo's "fiction" lacks originality in characters and plot-but also appears to mirror her life. After a disastrous ladies' night out, Julie, who works for a publishing company, pitches the idea of writing a book on how to be single. The author, like the character Julie, traveled the world interviewing men and women on being single for this book. Perhaps How to Be Single is more creative nonfiction than pure fiction?

  Much of the book reads like a personal journal, and less like a novel. The fiction-writing tip of "show, don't tell" goes completely out the window. (My professor from my fiction workshop days would cringe if he were to stomach this novel.)

  And away Julie goes, on to France, Brazil, Australia, China, Indonesia and Iceland, mingling with and discovering how local women perceive being single.

  Switching from her trips abroad to the events of her girlfriends back in the United States, Julie and her friends experience despair and dating debacles-page by page becoming the epitome of how notto be single.

  Originally, I was excited to read this book. After reading the synopsis, I thought it would be a fierce, pro-woman-and-the-single-life, city-slicker version of Eat, Pray, Love-wrong! Instead, How to Be Single dedicates 354 pages to grown, beautiful, smart and accomplished women talking about how sad and pathetic they are for not having a man.

  Sound clich and stereotypical? Yeah, I thought so too. In addition to spewing out statistics on how women outnumber men, and how all men are cheaters… well, what hope do women have to be married and happy-or in finding a man at all? However, Tuccillo neglected to include the statistics on how more and more single women are opting not to get married in order to pursue their own needs, and how many women in their 40s who have been married for years are divorcing their husbands for the freedom to live their own lives after having raised their families.

  n the end, Julie comes to a vague, no-brainer conclusion. Ultimately, How to Be Single is a book that implies it has insight on the titled subject, but doesn't.