The Quality of Life Report

Meghan Daum may be the L.A. Times equivalent of Maureen Dowd in the New York Times.  Her political columns are witty and acerbic, attacking idiosyncracies with the smile and parry of  Jon Stewart – funny with underlying truth.  Although I have sworn off memoirs, I read her latest book – looking for that humor and zing.  Life Would Be Perfect If I Lived in That House did not disappoint.

 Daum refers to using the royalties of the novel she wrote while in Nebraska – one of her many places to live – to ultimately buy a house.  I found that novel – The Quality of Life Report.

Although fiction, the book matches some of Daum’s brave revelations about her personal life in her exaggerated memoir – you write what you know?   The character Lucinda Trout might have been having the same adventures as Meghan Daum, but I had read the nonfiction sequel, and Lucinda was (mostly) fiction.

In the novel, after a visit to Prairie City, Nebraska to cover a news story on drugs, and noting the difference in rentals – 1000 square feet for $400 a month compared to her New York 400 square foot rental for $2000 – Lucinda Trout creates a documentary project that would have her feeding reports on “the quality of life” from her on-site experiences over a year from Prairie City.

Lucinda’s New Yorker sensibilities confronted with rural life of coyotes and truck stops give Daum the opportunity to demonstrate her cynical humor as Lucinda explores her new surroundings.   Mason Clay, a combination Sam Shepard/Brad Pitt, grain elevator operator with three children from three different women, becomes the love interest – an echo of the Nebraska “ex boyfriend” Daum often references in her memoir.

While the book was funny in places, it didn’t hold the same interest for me as “Life Would Be Perfect…”  I had been fascinated with Meghan’s real adventures; when I read them as pieces of a fictionalized venture with Mason – not so much.   But I still like Daum’s style – maybe the next book will reel me back in.

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