Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Fiction: The Social Climber’s Handbook by Molly Jong-Fast

Though I would imagine she grows weary of being compared to her family, it astonishes me to see the literary gene this sharp and present. Molly Jong-Fast is the daughter of two very talented novelists: Erica Jong (Fear of Flying, Sapho’s Leap) and Jonathan Fast (Stolen Time, The Jade Stalk) and the granddaughter of Howard Fast (Spartacus, April Morning).

As a result, though, so you don’t come to Molly Jong-Fast’s work without expectation. But it doesn’t disappoint. The Social Climber’s Handbook (Villard) has been called “Heathers meets The Talented Mr. Ripley,” and while that doesn’t quite cover it, it does give you some idea of what you can expect.

Daisy and Dick Greenbaum are not a particularly likable couple. When their gentle life on the Upper East Side of Manhattan is jeopardized by the Recession, Daisy determines to dispatch anyone who would stand in the way of her children’s private schools, their summers in the Hamptons or her own designer clothes.

Molly Jong-Fast’s tone in this black comedy account of the life of a Park Avenue “Recessionista” is flat, cool and perfect. There is such detachment in Daisy’s madness, one is put in mind of Brett Eston Ellis’ American Psycho, another book that looked at a rarified white collar world with a sordid, jaundiced eye.
Daisy hated books where the protaganist’s child dies. She found them pornographic in the worst possible way. Adversity (however huge) did not (in her mind anyway) make an unlikeable character likable.
In the same way, Daisy Greenbaum never becomes likable to us. But she’s so well and sharply rendered, her plight is so well told and her solution to her problems so outlandish and so horrible, we just can’t look away. ◊

Monica Stark is a contributing editor to January Magazine. She currently makes her home on a liveaboard boat somewhere in the North Pacific.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Dorri Olds said...

I enjoyed reading the book! Molly Jong-Fast's sense of humor is sooo New York!

—a native New Yorker — DorriOlds.com

Thursday, May 5, 2011 at 12:22:00 AM PDT  
Anonymous Trish said...

I find it astonishing that this writer would assume anyone--outside of New York--would care anything about these characters. Self-indulgent, self-indulgent, self-indulgent!

Thursday, November 3, 2011 at 2:11:00 PM PDT  

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