Have you ever felt used by someone? You know what I mean. Have you ever felt as though some one was being your friend merely to gain access to your home, car, vacation spot, food, connections, lifestyle, advice, etc.? I am guessing that the sensation of feeling “used” is quite universal. Perhaps the user is intentionally abusing your kindness, generosity, or naiveté, but probably they are seemingly unaware of how their behavior is coming across. While reading the book Prospect Park West by Amy Sohn, I kept coming back to this idea of how we constantly use those around us. David has recently been reading How to Make Friends and Influence People and, from what he shared, it seems the user-usee relationship is the integral relationship of human interactions. According to author Carnegie, the best way to interest someone is to compliment them in a genuine fashion and/or ask them about themselves or something/one they love. His advice stems from his belief that everyone is self-interested and that in being self-interested, we therefore use those around. How to manipulate, control, or shift this primary occurrence is what is key to “success.”
In the book Prospect Park West, the characters are highly interesting. Each has a quirk, a compulsion, a fun side, and, quite frankly, a selfish side. As the book progressed, I was wrapped up in their trivial daily dramas but found that the characters are not likable people. Each character is using someone for their own personal or professional gain in overt ways. Rebecca uses Lizzie to feel loved since her “meanness” repulses her husband while Lizzie uses Rebecca to explore her sexuality until Rebecca put off by the affection Lizzie shows is then repulsed by Lizzie. Karen uses Melora as a crutch for social anxiety while she also uses her husband to gain access to premium property in the coveted Brooklyn neighborhood. None of the characters truly express love or genuine affection for any of the others and yet they are connected through their constant need to self-promote. While I cannot say that I liked the book and its variety of messages, it did get me thinking about the purpose of relationships, friendships, and made me more aware of how I and those around me self-promote or use in order to advance or get their way. While this is all part of human nature, I am hoping that this chick lit can be a breaking point for me. I truly want to try to avoid being like these women in this novel. Yes, their stories are sensuous, suggestive, and fun but the content of their character left me wanting. I can see some of those baser traits in myself and I want to do more to not only be aware of them but to shift them to something more positive. In the Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald describes Daisy and Tom as “careless” people. I would describe many of the characters in Prospect Park West as similarly careless. But, hopefully with this in mind, I can avoid a similar description.