Posts Tagged ‘friendship’
Eighteen Acres, the debut novel by Nicolle Wallace, communications director under George W. Bush and campaign advisor for John McCain and Sarah Palin, approaches contemporary politics from the angle of women’s commercial fiction. The three main characters each carry different careers within the realm of US politics: Melanie Kingston, the White House chief of staff, Charlotte Kramer, America’s first female president, and Dale Smith, a White House correspondent.
Read the entire review on Bookslut.
Tags: Bookslut, chick lit, chick lit hybrid, commercial fiction, Eighteen Acres, family, friendship, infidelity, marriage, motherhood, Nicolle Wallace, politics, pop fiction, sexism, women in media, women in politics
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Claire Messud’s highly praised novel about the aimless wanderings of New York City’s young, intellectual, and elite is both humorous and emotionally engrossing. Messud’s three main characters met while studying at Brown University: Marina, the aspiring writer and daughter of an established literary icon, Julius, the perpetually temping Village Voice has-been, and Danielle, the studio-dwelling melancholy. Nearly ten years later, all three characters are approaching 30 with little to show for their Ivy League education, their developed opinions, and privilege.
Marina, the daughter of pretentious journalist and novelist Murray Thwaite, was offered a book deal at 23 to do an analytical study of children’s attire as a reflection of cultural attitudes. Seven years later, Marina has yet to make any progress on the book and flummoxes about her parents’ uptown apartment, contemplating getting a job but fearing that it would ultimately make her “too ordinary.” She attends parties on her father’s arm, defers to him on all things remotely literary, and generally invites the reader to implement a Freudian interpretation of their relationship at every turn.
Julius sleeps with his boss, moves in with him, then proceeds to destroy the relationship with a string infidelities. He too is jobless. Danielle spends much of her time at Marina’s house, catching up with the parents of her college friend as they still envision her as the over-zealous 22-year-old with a penchant for smart ideas. They hug her, pat her on the head, and have her over for dinner often. But when Murray, Marina’s father, asks Danielle to meet him on the sly to discuss Marina’s crumbling literary career, Murray and Danielle fall into the throes of an illicit, borderline incestuous affair.
Messud is a detailed writer with a fondness, and a talent, for character portraits. In The Emperor’s Children, her protagonists are drawn out in outstanding detail; they could very well function as stories of their own regardless of the larger plot that unfolds. Her tendency to overwrite their personas, ticks, and quirks can be tedious at times, but does reflect a more traditional and time-honored approach to character description that goes absent from many contemporary novels. Messud’s voice is both charmingly chatty and uncompromisingly literary — a rare find, as well as nuanced. She captures many moments between her Woody Allen-reminiscent characters with fine overtones.
However, her comment on the unsavory intersection of privilege and intellectualism is resounding and clear. By weaving the stories of Marina, Julius, and Danielle together into a complex friendship of mutual entitlement and respective purposelessness, Messud offers readers an intricate peek into the downside to being young and brilliant.
To read more about Claire Messud, click here.
Tags: Brown University, Claire Messud, daughter father relationship, family, Freud, friendship, infidelity, intellectual, literary fiction, Manhattan, new york city, privilege, The Emperor's Children, Woody Allen
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Carlene Bauer’s debut book, Not That Kind of Girl, details her evangelical upbringing in a small, cloistered town in southern New Jersey. Indoctrinated into her nondenominational faith by well-intentioned parents, Bauer and her younger sister struggle with eventual integration into public school, religious questioning, and general adolescent turmoil. Bauer eventually leaves her small pond for a slightly larger one: a private Catholic college. She majors in English and “communes with the dead,” spending hours poring over Virginia Woolf, Mary Wollstonecraft, and Simone de Beauvoir. Bauer eventually moves to Brooklyn where she tries to reconcile her belief in God with a hunger for sex, love, and other experiences beyond the conditions of her faith. Bauer passes into her twenties with little to no sexual experience, without any tales of drunken debauchery to share at the local dive bars in which she feels out of place. She yearns for a boyfriend but can’t seem to develop a full-fledged romance; she refers to her suitors as “false starts.”
Bauer is articulate in her religious contemplation, communicating her experiences of doubt and illumination with eloquent and lucid prose. She observes her small town well, recalling the details of youth groups and high school social politics, discerning her own visceral reactions to the reckless behavior of her peers with evocative and arresting perception. Upon hearing stories of drunken escapades by friends at the edges of town, Bauer fears losing control of herself in the typical high school party setting:
The word party, because of how I’d overheard them described and seen them depicted in John Hughes movies, filled me with fear. I was afraid of what people would see if I let myself go wherever my mind and alcohol and drugs would take me. I didn’t want anyone to ever have to step over me while I lay openmouthed like a fish that had been knocked from its bowl onto somebody’s parents’ shag carpet. Or pull my face, mottled with vomit and mulch, out of somebody’s parents’ landscaping after I’d heaved in the bushes. I didn’t ever want anyone who wasn’t related to me to see my body’s secrets spilled out in strangers’ ranch houses when I wasn’t even sure what its secrets were.
The themes of Bauer’s work stand strong: feminism, literature, and religion. A budding feminist in her religious community, she gravitates towards the writings of Sylvia Plath, looking to the late poetess for inspiration as she plans a life for herself in New York City. Her dedication to classic literature is matched only by her love of God, a relationship that is beautifully entwined in Bauer’s introspective narration.
Bauer writes keenly about female friendship, exposing delicate moments in the lives of ambitious young women whose faith eventually dissipates. Each of her female comrades is finely drawn as they travel, give up God, and meet up with Bauer some years later in different settings and with new attitudes. Warned from an early age to steer clear of teen pregnancy, drugs, and hair dye, she unexpectedly becomes close with rebel and chronic smoker Caroline. Bauer describes their polar opposite nature with fondness, writing, “I thought girls as different as we were had to circle each other with suspicion, but she came over and pulled me to her.” She identifies the friendship as a “sisterhood,” explaining humorously that, “we might have recognized men as the oppressor, and raged against them in the abstract, but we could be charmed by individual cases.”
Not That Kind of Girl suffers from a lackluster ending, but Bauer’s bow to convention does not detract from this indubitably well-written memoir, an observant and reflective work in a recent boom of mediocre memoirists. This contemplative meditation on identity and God from an analytical, well-read, and self-professed “good girl” announces a promising Brooklyn-based writer with insights worth reading.
To read more about Carlene Bauer, click here.
Tags: brooklyn, Carlene Bauer, Catholic, catholicism, classic literature, evangelical, faith, feminism, friendship, God, identity, Jesus, Manhattan, Memoir, New Jersey, new york city, religion, spirituality, Sylvia Plath, women's personal writing
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This satirical novel about the ills of female friendship tells the story of Wendy Murman and Daphne Uberoff, frenemies since college, living their respective “adult” lives in Brooklyn. Wendy, an unappreciated magazine editor who resents her husband for their reproductive woes, receives daily updates from Daphne, the proverbial hot mess whose life of drugs, affairs, and glamor might seem straight out of a Lifetime movie. Wendy prides herself on being the voice of reason in Daphne’s life, talking her through the broken promises of married men and various romantic dead ends. But when Daphne is courted by an available Mr. Right in her age bracket –– a romance that results in a lavish wedding, a pregnancy, and a gorgeous brownstone for the happy family –– Wendy struggles to maintain the friendship despite paralyzing envy.
Touted as a more sophisticated and incisive take on the chick lit genre for its cynical approach to female friendship, I’m So Happy for You isn’t really much of a departure. Daphne and Wendy are caricatures of actual women, their desires to one-up each other leaving no room for real character development. Wendy and Daphne are presented, simplistically, as two sides of the same coin: smart and frumpy versus beautiful and vapid.
A watered-down attempt at Jane Austen, I’m So Happy for You has a few humorous moments involving passive-aggressive emails and baby shower don’ts. In other news, it’s a quick read.
To read more about Lucinda Rosenfeld, click here.