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February 09, 2004

Dating Divas

by Ron Hogan

This evening I went to the SoHo furniture boutique Desiron for a New York Times "Booked for the Evening" event, part of their series of Times Talks, in which Alex Kuczynski moderated a discussion with chick lit authors Meg Cabot and Valerie Frankel, both of whom have new trade paperbacks out from Avon--respectively, Boy Meets Girl and The Not-So-Perfect Man.

Both novels are about women falling for the type of man they never thought they'd fall in love with, but for very different reasons. Cabot's protagonist, who despises lawyers, becomes infatuated with the attorney deposing her in a lawsuit, while Frankel's is a widow in her mid-thirties who falls for a guy who's young, talented, but can barely hold down a job.

But the two weren't there to talk about their books so much as to dish about dating and relationships, and that they did in spades. Cabot advised women in the audience to go with the man who was least annoying. "My husband watches sports all the time," she said, "but the last boyfriend before him cheated on me, which was much more annoying." And though both suggested periodic check-up discussions to evaluate the relationship's status, Frankel went on to note, "Women have a bottomless need for reassurance, and men are very bored by that." (Which rings pretty true to any guy who's found himself saying, "Yes, I still love you, enough already.")

Other highlights: the "doorman factor," which can cause Manhattan women not to bring men back to their apartment; David Denby as the male Bridget Jones self-cataloging all his flaws in meticulous detail; and basing characters on real-life acquaintances. Cabot: "I can tell my friends don't read my books because the books are about them and they don't hate me." Frankel's fiancé, meanwhile, doesn't care if she writes about him, as long as she doesn't work out their problems in her books instead of with him.

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