April 2004

Gena Anderson

fiction

Lisa33 by Dan Allen

First of all, I would just like to say that I should have known I probably wouldnít like this book the minute I saw the Garrison Keillor blurb on the dust jacket: ďLisa33 is an eccentric, hilarious book and, in the end, very moving. I admire it.Ē When Keillor says something is hilarious it usually means that I will find it extremely dull (maybe Iím a bad Minnesotan for this, but thatís something Iíll just have to deal with). It turns out that Lisa33 did have a few faintly absurd funny moments, but was such a weak effort overall that I didnít enjoy it much.

Maybe it was the format of the book that didnít agree with me. Itís a book written in mostly chat room form, with the occasional email thrown in -- the story of a girl with the handle of Lisa33, and a guy called Tag who succumb to the follies of online sex. Actually, their relationship seems to be deeper than just masturbation, but since the characters are as shallow as the chat rooms themselves, I never really connected into the narration of the book. Tag is supposedly a lawyer in a loveless marriage, and Lisa33 is a self-educated housewife and mother. They start to become obsessed with each other while visiting an online chat room called Literoticus. Of course, they realize that having a relationship in real life is probably impossible, but they still fantasize about it. The few glimpses we get into their lives are too random and donít really tell us anything about the characters. The ending was rather lackluster, and it sort of made me realize that the whole book never really went anywhere.

There is something tedious about reading line after line of curiously well-spelled instant messages, so the few emails included in the book were a good rest from that. I particularly enjoyed the email where Lisa33 describes how she learned to love reading after shoplifting a book from the drug store as a child, but it wasnít enough to keep me interested. If nothing else, the book did manage to capture the incongruity of chat rooms. Some people come to just talk, and others have a different agenda:

MySweetPussyWantsU: Reach your other hand up my dress now.
Lola B: Tag! Can you help me? I have to describe three lasting effects the sixties had on American society.
Tag: Not another essay.
Satish11: Okay. My hand is reaching within your dress.
Tag: So how did the Matthew Arnold paper work out?

Iím not necessarily recommending you not read this book. If you are the type of person who will spend hours instant messaging your friend, even if they only live a few blocks away, you might like the format and pacing of this book. If youíre like me though, you enjoy a face-to-face conversation and donít communicate solely through lengthy emails. You also will probably not like this book.

Lisa33 by Dan Allen
Viking
ISBN 0670031658
246 Pages