A Shore Thing
by Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi
Simon & Schuster, 304 pp. ISBN: 978-1451623741
One thing that MTV’s The Jersey Shore has impressed upon me is the utter uniqueness of that bit of seaside real estate. This realization came to me as the show’s second season unfolded. Obviously eager to capitalize on the splash the first season made, MTV rushed into production a second, where our intrepid guidos and guidettes repaired to Miami Beach to escape a particularly ferocious winter in the northeast. Though southern Florida offered an adequate wintertime facsimile of East Coast summer, something was palpably lacking. Call it Jersey terroir, if you like. Whatever it was, it proved one thing: You can’t offshore the Jersey shore.
This is presumably a lucky thing for the cast of The Jersey Shore, who have managed to turn aquatically themed dolce far niente into a career; the abortive Miami idyll only made a return to the Jersey Shore more urgently needed.
And so we find ourselves at the commencement of the third season, in which our fond guidos and guidettes return to their natural habitat. I’m interested to see just how “meta” the show is capable of becoming as its stars grow ever more conscious of their peculiar celebrity. We had intimations of this toward the end of Season Two, when there seemed to occur a wholesale transfer of mojo from Mike “The Situation” to Vinny. Vinny, a veritable ingenue in the first season, blossomed into a regular cocksman, as The Situation, perhaps realizing that six toned abs don’t one personality make, spent the final few episodes flailing about in desperation as hookup ho’s and housemates alike mutinied against his whole alpha-male trip.
We’ll know soon enough how The Situation, et al., spent their summer vacation. Of more pressing importance, at least as far as their personal finances are concerned, is how they spent the hiatus between Seasons Two and Three. It appears that The Situation and fellow guido Pauly D have done quite well for themselves. The Daily Beast recently reported that they are respectively the sixth and ninth highest earning reality TV stars of 2010. Licensed merch, publisher advances, appearance fees, and sundry residuals have garnered quite a respectable pile for our fine leathered friends.
You can’t offshore the Jersey shore.
Not to be outdone by the boys, Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi, The Jersey Shore‘s sample-sized sexpot renowned for bitch slaps given and received, has gone decidedly more highbrow than Pauly or Sitch, penning A Shore Thing, a roman à clef detailing the Jersey shore’s many sweaty pleasures. Author Snooki’s protagonist is one Gia Spumante, a café au lait party girl on the prowl for “gorilla juiceheads” and good times. “Giovanna ‘Gia’ Spumanti and her cousin Isabella ‘Bella’ Rizzoli are going to have the sexiest summer ever,” the jacket reads. “While they couldn’t be more different — pint-size Gia is a carefree, outspoken party girl and Bella is a tall, slender athlete who always holds her tongue — for the next month they’re ready to pouf up their hair, put on their stilettos, and soak up all that Seaside Heights, New Jersey, has to offer: hot guidos, cool clubs, fried Oreos, and lots of tequila.”
Just how hot these guidos come Snooki/Gia coyly offers some sense: “He had an okay body. Not fat at all. And naturally toned abs.” You can only admire Snooki’s spare prose, her economy of expression, as she damns with faint praise this only-meh guido. (Raymond Chandler somewhere looks on approvingly, I’m sure.)
What this guido’s body lacks in showroom pizazz, it more than makes up for in technical specs. “She could pour a shot of tequila down his belly and slurp it out of his navel without getting splashed in the face.” There’s something surpassingly selfless — tender even — in how this guido forwent the typical corporeal ostentation for which Mike “The Situation” is justly famous. No insectile thorax for Gia’s nameless guido, no fascisculating hillocks of muscle. Rather, the more body-shot friendly contours are the ones he opts for; for which ladies like Gia and Bella ought to be grateful, as there’s little chance they’ll muss their makeup. You can’t wait to turn the page to discover if he’s amply rewarded for his consideration with some after-hours “smooshing.”
Late in his career French theorist and man about town Michel Foucault developed a theory of what he called “technologies of the self,” which he defined as any ensemble of knowledges, practices, or exercises that “permit individuals to effect by their own means or with the help of others a certain number of operations on their own bodies and souls, thoughts, conduct, and way of being, so as to transform themselves in order to attain a certain state of happiness, purity, wisdom, perfection, or immortality.” The body-shot-ready guido of Snooki’s A Shore Thing seems to have something approaching this sort of transformation in mind.
But what about those who push it further, who want more for themselves than the nondescript planes and angles of “an okay body?” Fortunately, modern chemistry stands ready to aid them in order “to effect … a certain number of operations on their own bodies” and thereby “transform themselves in order to attain a certain state.” I speak, of course, of steroids, that elixir vitae of transcendent guidoism. Many have quaffed from the cup, and many will find themselves tempted to do so. But for those so tempted, Snooki/Gia offers this bit of wisdom: “Any juicehead will get some nut shrinkage. And bacne. They fly into a ‘roid rage, it is a ‘road’ ‘roid rage.” ‘Roids giveth, and ‘roids taketh away. And the foolhardy guido is poorer for the bargain. At once neutered and hypermasculine, experiencing both the spring and winter of sexual being, the “juicehead” becomes a sort of walking contradiction — a union of opposites, the excluded middle. Thus rendering himself uncannily Other, the juicehead can only rage impotently at his plight: he can impress women but cannot pleasure them. Such is the Faustian bargain he has struck.
“A Shore Thing” is part moral treatise, part zaftig fantasia.
Yet guidos aren’t the only ones doomed to suffer the contradictions bred of seaside Jersey’s sybaritic milieu. Careless guidettes are made to suffer as well. Even Snooki’s gamine protagonist experiences humiliation of nearly classical tragic force. “Gia danced around a little, shaking her peaches for show,” we read at one point. “She shook it hard. Too hard. In the middle of a shimmy, her stomach cramped. A fart slipped out. A loud one. And stinky.” The furious sequence from peaches shaken to cheese cut captures in microcosm French thinker Julia Kristeva’s theory of abjection, an eruption of the Real into the symbolic order of “peaches,” poufs, and f*ck-me pumps, one that even the most frenzied and primordial ritual — suggestive dancing — cannot repress.
It’s these occasional darker, minor-chord variations on an otherwise decidedly sunny, brassy theme which make Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi’s debut novel such a deceptively nuanced work. Indeed, A Shore Thing is part moral treatise, part zaftig fantasia. The whole dizzying fugue — involving hot guidos, cool clubs, fried Oreos, and lots of tequila, each in ample measure — author Snooki composes with a maestro’s aplomb. After all, the Italians invented opera, right?
(You can read earlier thoughts of mine on MTV’s The Jersey Shore here.)
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