Disclaimer: I am not a writer by trade. In a previous life I worked in marketing at various publishing houses, but I never harbored any aspirations to be a writer. In fact, I even hate book clubs. The idea of sitting around getting drunk while people argue over the symbolism of The Green Blinking Light in The Great Gatsby does not appeal to me (for the record, it symbolizes Jay Gatsby’s hopes and dreams for the future, case closed). That being said, I humbly will talk about books and ideas in this post…so bear with me.
I just recently finished a book that, well, glittered. Err, not 50 Shades of Gray (hi, Mom!) but rather, The Rules of Civility by first-time author Amor Towles. First, if anyone could write a book about the Bright Young Things in 1930s New York, it would have to be someone with the name of Amor Towles. Hell, most nom de plumes aren’t that good.
The book is told from the point of view of Katy, the orphaned daughter of Russian immigrants, and begins as a flashback to New Year’s Eve and continues throughout that 1938 year. Katy isn’t alone in her reverie; she recounts her partner in crime, Evie, and their mutual friend, Tinker.
It is the typical story of a young girl finding herself spinning around in the elite circles of Manhattan. I started to think more about books based in Manhattan versus those based in Boston. In Manhattan, women are often searching for fame, clawing their way out of wherever they came from; reinvention is the ideal phrase when talking characters. Whereas books set in Boston are grittier and usually involve murder; the focus lies in ideas of revenge.
My favorite New York trashy novel, I read shortly before college graduation. I was lazily sitting on the green of my alma mater, wearing a large hat and drinking a martini (that I had carefully placed in a thermos to avoid detection). I sat in the sun with my book, which I bought with a steep discount after having bought too many textbooks over the years. That book? Valley of the Dolls. So yes, while my parents threw out a chunk of change for me to graduate with a fancy liberal arts education, I tried to undo all my higher learning with a Jacqueline Susann novel. I am rather proud of this fact.
But the novel, as trashy as the reputation is, was rather groundbreaking. Written in 1966 just before the women’s lib movement gained traction, Susann tells the story of Neely, Anne, and Jennifer, three young women who claw their way to the top of the the New York entertainment food chain, only to spiral out of control. The story covers drug addiction, affairs, and other things that Gawker can only dream of getting its little tabloidy hands on.
I tried researching a Boston counterpart to Valley of the Dolls, but the closest I could come was Peyton Place, which took place in New Hampshire. The Scarlet Letter might come close as it deals with themes of adultery, but the underlying idea of revenge still comes into play.
What about cities you live in? Does Philly fiction fare differently from D.C. or LA fiction? What about Phoenix or Chicago? Am I missing a large chunk of Boston or NY lit? Discuss – just make sure there is plenty of booze to go around.