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Cliffnotes: Gina Fattore's The Spinster Diaries
An occasional feature on the original TeenDramaWhore.com was a series I called “Cliffnotes.”
Much like the CliffNotes brand, I’d read books and pull out some of the highlights. In some cases I shared my correspondence with the authors and opened up about how the books’ topics affected my life. The twist, of course, was that all the books I chose were related to the teen drama genre.
My first pick was Beverly Hills, 90210: Television, Gender and Identity, which analyzed how the series impacted young female viewers and how they viewed their female identity. Next came Billion-Dollar Kiss: The Kiss That Saved Dawson’s Creek and Other Adventures in TV Writing, written by Jeffrey Stepakoff, who was a co-executive producer on “Dawson’s Creek.” Then there was Wilm on Film, which examined the evolution of the film and TV industry in Wilmington, North Carolina, where both “Dawson’s Creek” and “One Tree Hill” were shot. (This was back in 2010, more than four years before I moved to Wilmington.) Last was Tori Spelling’s uncharted terriTORI, which prompted the following tweet from the actress herself.
Now I’m excited to share the latest teen drama-related book I’ve read: The Spinster Diaries by Gina Fattore, who — like Stepakoff — was a co-executive producer on “Dawson’s Creek.” Also like Stepakoff, I interviewed her for the original TDW more than a decade ago.
The Spinster Diaries, a novel, had been on my reading list since it was released in April. Because I don’t get to enjoy books nearly as much or as often as I’d like, it wasn’t until September that I was finally able to cozy up with this delightful, self-deprecating read. The book gets its title from its epistolary format. The narrator, a self-proclaimed “spinster,” is writing diary entries as she goes about a year in her life.
There are essentially two plots: One focuses on the titular spinster (named Gina) as she faces the scary diagnosis of a brain tumor while working as a writer on a primetime television show. The other is about the real-life Frances Burney, an 18th-century author whom our spinster writes about in great detail as she works on a potential miniseries about Burney’s life.
I realize none of that sounds very funny — but trust me, it is. Fattore’s writing is full of the kind of wit that appeals to fans of “Dawson’s Creek” and “Gilmore Girls,” on which she also worked. Some of the text is even written in the style of a TV script, which greatly interested the part of me that regrets not becoming a screenwriter. Fattore recently confirmed to me that while the book is partially autobiographical, the highs and lows of being a TV writer, as hilariously detailed in the novel, were not based on her experience with “Dawson’s Creek” but rather another show.
As someone previously unfamiliar with Burney, it was fascinating to learn how she was essentially Jane Austen before Jane Austen rose to prominence. The book is rightly described as an “unromantic comedy” and a “satire of both the TV business and the well-worn conventions of chick lit.” I appreciated that there wasn’t a cliche happy ending with the perennial single spinster suddenly finding the love her life, as much as I secretly rooted for her to get together with one of her colleagues.
At just over 200 pages, I finished the book in a day, which is not to say I didn’t savor it. In fact, I would’ve happily spent longer with both the title character and Burney.
So here’s hoping a sequel is in the works. And if not, any other book by Fattore will do.
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