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Season of "The Witch": Fairy Tales for the Modern World

The Witch: And Other Tales Re-ToldIn a world that loves to categorize writers – he writes horror, say; she’s a journalist – Jean Thompson is uncategorizable. In fact, the only consistent thing you can say about the author of several award winning novels and collections (my favorite: Who Do You Love?) is that she’s always interesting and good – and, yes, surprising. This month Thompson releases a new collection of tales that seem Halloweenish, The Witch: And Other Tales Re-Told, in that they’re inspired by fairy tales – grim and not so – of her youth. We asked Thompson to complete a specialized version of our Amazon Asks.

The Witch will be available September 25.

What’s the elevator pitch for your book?

I rewrote some classic fairy tales with ordinary people as characters. It's great, really!

What inspired you to do that?

I'm interested in what makes stories compelling, and what gives them staying power. Fairy tales reach so far back into our collective past, and new versions of them constantly evolve and surface. We seem to have a very human need for stories that end with the triumph of the good, the innocent, the brave, the virtuous, with obstacles overcome and the world set to rights. And often enough, only some kind of supernatural intervention can overcome the very long odds of this happening. There's a lot of wish fulfillment you can't get anywhere else.

Your books usually address the everyday experiences of ordinary Americans. Fairy tales almost always have magical elements. Can you talk about the juxtaposition of the extraordinary and the mundane in this book?

I'm a connoisseur of the mundane, in that everything I write comes out of closely observed ordinary life, and is grounded in reality. There are no fairy godmothers in The Witch, no amazing transformations, or rather, anything that might partake of the magical can also be explained by psychology or circumstance. And yet, if this doesn't sound too contradictory, I believe that the world we live in is the only real source of magic: of delight, of unexpected fortune, of second chances, new beginnings, of all that transports us.

These tales, as you’ve rewritten them, are quite subversive, politically and socially. (Cinderella has a drunken encounter; Hansel and Gretel deal with the foster care system) How do these stories reflect your own political views?

Thank you for introducing the word 'subversive', which I shall promptly add to my lexicon of self-description. Subversive sounds so much better than cranky and mistrustful. I guess I'm not inclined to take things at face value, or to believe official party lines. In politics, this probably stems from coming of age during the Vietnam war and later Watergate, when even the paranoid were a little shocked to discover the extent of official lying. In my fiction, I'm fond of characters, especially young characters, who see through cover stories and lectures to real motives. Yes, I suppose I was a difficult child.

What’s the last dream you remember?

I have a lot of fairly detailed anxiety dreams: forgetting appointments, not being able to find keys, and most often, being lost or trapped in some strange landscape or building with doors that won't open, endless staircases leading nowhere, and the like. Always happy to wake up.

What’s your most memorable author moment?

Giving a bookstore reading of a story where a character has a blind date with a man who had an unrequited crush on her many years ago in college, then afterwards, signing a book for a guy who once asked me out many years ago in, etc. Memorable, and not in a good way.

What superpower would you most like to have, not including invisibility or flight?

The superpower I'd choose, if invisibility is off the table: I'd like to be able to win arguments. With anybody, about anything. So there.

Sometimes It’s OK to Say “I Told You So”

RobPeaceAbout three years ago, my friend Rebecca introduced me to her husband, Jeff Hobbs, who had published one novel and was working on another. Like me, Rebecca is a major reader—our relationship started because we both worked in related parts of the book business—and she wanted my opinion on Jeff’s book. I read the partial manuscript—and was unsure. There was a lot about Jeff’s writing that I liked, but the story (about a marriage, as I recall) didn’t quite hold together. When Jeff and Rebecca and I talked, we talked about how to fix it.

But a funny thing happened in the course of that telephone conversation three years ago. Jeff mentioned that he was taking a break from the novel anyway, because he was trying to deal with his grief and sadness over the death of his friend and college roommate, Rob Peace. He was travelling back and forth to the east coast (the Hobbses live in L.A.) to attend the funeral and reconnect with his and Rob’s old friends. I didn’t know Jeff well at all at that point, but even I could tell that this experience—losing his friend in this horrible way—was just about all he was able to think about.

So I honestly don’t remember who said it first—whether it was Jeff or Rebecca or me—but what I do know is from that moment on, we stopped talking about the novel and started talking about how Jeff, a writer whose main way of figuring things out is to write about them, would honor his friend.We talked about Jeff writing a magazine article that might, if it worked, turn into a proposal for a book. I said I’d help him find an agent or editor to help.

A few months, or maybe it was only weeks later, Jeff showed me a 30-something-page proposal that blew me away. It was knowing, it was journalistic, it was beautiful: all that and more. So I sent it along to a friend, David Black, who just happened to be one of the best agents in New York.

Jeffhobbs
Author Jeff Hobbs

The rest, as they say, is history—if you read the footnotes. Which, in this case, means that David worked with Jeff to turn a brilliant 30 page proposal into an even more complete 80-or-something-page proposal. Within weeks, the book was bought by Scribner, which is publishing it with the enthusiasm and passion it deserves.

Why am I telling you all this stuff, which is inside-baseball at its most arcane? Because now, on the eve of the publication of The Short and Tragic Life of Robert Peace, I find myself sitting with the book, with pre-pub reviews, with Goodreads commentary, and finding my eyes fill up with tears. Yes, I’m proud to have been a small part of something so great, but this is Jeff’s book all the way—though Jeff, in his characteristically humble way, corrects me by saying “It’s Rob’s book.” But what I’m moved by, as Rob Peace’s story, honored by his friend Jeff Hobbs, goes out into the world, is that an awful lot of people are feeling the way I felt when I first talked to the Hobbses about this years ago: Rob Peace’s life story is not only worth telling, it must be told. So here’s my shameless plug: if you haven’t read this book yet, do it now. You don’t want to be the last one on your block to join the conversation about race and friendship and family in our time.

And, after you do, you can say I told you so.

Runway Roundup: New Releases for Fashion Week

I think I’ve probably used up all the words allotted for praising I’ll Drink to That, the new memoir from the octogenarian style maven, Betty Halbreich. But, love it as I do, there are other brand new books about fashion and their –istas, just out or about to come out. Why does it seem there’s a bounty of such books right now? Fall is big clothes-buying season, for one thing (I bet that fact has to do with our collective memories of back-to-school outfits and shoes) and, also because it’s the week designers show their upcoming stuff at Fashion Week. Here, then, some other books for the adornment-obsessed.

 

Women in Clothes

Women in Clothes

A quirky compendium of essays, photos, interviews and other pieces by and about women and the things they wear. Notable contributors include authors Heidi Julavits, artist Leanne Shapton and (of course) Girls creator and, ahem, creative dresser, Lena Dunham. Anthologies are usually tricky – uneven – and this one can be. But it’s so well done, and so chock full of charm, you can’t help learning (again!) that in books, as in fashion, style and confidence is all.

 
Champagne Supernovas

Champagne Supernovas: Kate Moss, Marc Jacobs, Alexander McQueen, and the 90s Renegades Who Remade Fashion by Maureen Callahan

Dish-y! According to New York Post writer, Maureen Callahan, model Kate Moss and designers Marc Jacobs and the late Alexander McQueen are responsible for turning alternative style into the mainstream – and making billions in the process. Callahan posits that these mad geniuses of fashion are major cultural icons, or at least were responsible for major cultural shifts. It’s a provocative argument. As the late Joan Rivers, who also had a few opinions about fashion, would say, “Can we talk?”

 
The Woman I Wanted to Be

The Woman I Wanted to Be by Diane von Furstenberg

Her second memoir, the designer Diane von Furstenberg here inspires women not necessarily to wear her signature wrap dresses, but to believe in themselves. After all, the now-wife of mogul Barry Diller did, through family crises, career setbacks and serious illness. Still, in the end, she says, “I owe everything to that little dress.”

 
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D.V. and Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel by Diana Vreeland

And no book about fashionism [sic] would be complete without a mention of the very best, funniest, oddest books about loving and having style. Those, of course, are Diana Vreeland’s D.V. and The Eye Has to Travel. “Pink is the navy blue of India,” the legendary Vogue editor famously opined. Like the aphorisms attributed to Yogi Berra, hers are, even in the re-reading, irresistible.

 
Elsa Schiaparelli: A Biography

Elsa Schiaparelli: A Biography by Meryle Secrest

And then there’s Elsa Schiaparelli, best known until recently by only the  most serious fashion lovers, but who was, in her day, even more famous than Coco Chanel. Meryle Secrest’s biography makes the case that Schiaparelli (grandmother of actress Marisa Berenson) was not merely a designer, but was, in fact, an artist (she was close to Man Ray, among others) and an eccentric social revolutionary whose medium was apparel.   

Sara’s Sleeper: "We Are Called to Rise" by Laura McBride

SaranelsonWe Are Called to RiseSometimes I crave a simple, straightforward novel--not necessarily light, but straightforward;  one that makes a point about our world-views, our morality, the way we live now. 

We Are Called to Rise, by Laura McBride, is that kind of book. It’s a  series of interlocking vignettes of four characters:  two middle aged women with in-flux family lives, a little Albanian-immigrant boy and a wounded soldier too scared and angry to remember his patriotic platitudes. It’s set in Las Vegas, but if you’re thinking glamorous, you’ll be surprised.  And while there are moments you can’t help but see that this debut author is more fascinated by her ideas than the characters she gives them to, I dare you to come away from this arresting novel unmoved. 

Plus:  how can you resist a book that is both readable in one sitting AND takes its title from a poem by Emily Dickinson? 

Sara Says: All I want for New Year's...

SaranelsonAll I want for New Year's... is a handful of fantastic books.

Let somebody else (or millions of somebodies else) think the new year brings resolutions of weight loss, money saving, better parenting. For me, 2014 means I get another chance to sift through another giant stack of books to pick out the ones that will matter most to me. This is no exact science, to be sure, and there are always surprises none of us can see coming (how did I not know that The Goldfinch was going to change my life in 2013?). But as I look ahead a couple of months, these are the five novels (and one bio) I'm most excited to get my hands on:

The Enchanted

The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld


I was skeptical, I admit, because this debut novel involves magic, and magic is usually not my thing. But so far, this tale of life in a prison, narrated by a mute inmate and centered on an unnamed death penalty investigator who makes a particularly monstrous killer as her cause, has me riveted.
Boy, Snow, Bird

Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi


A retelling of the Snow White fairy tale, except this time the issue of race is explicit. I'm curious to see how Oyeyemi -- who was, after all, the author of Mr. Fox, which took on the Bluebird legend -- does with this somewhat more mainstream parable.
Frog Music

Frog Music by Emma Donoghue


Sometimes I'm afraid to start a book for fear that I'll be captivated but won't have the block of time necessary to finish it. That's how I felt about Frog Music by Emma Donoghue (but, ok, I cheated. I read the beginning, and I'm taking the rest of the day off from all other pursuits.) You may know Donoghue as the author of Room, but this book seems more akin to her Slammerkin, in that both deal with historical murders of women of questionable repute. Either way, you can count on this one getting lots of attention come spring.
The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street

The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street by Susan Jane Gilman


How's this for a first line: "We'd been in America just three months when the horse ran over me"? So begins this luscious-looking novel by the author of Hypocrite in a Pouffy White Dress. This one's going to the very top of the pile.
You Should Have Known

You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz


The author of the much-admired Admission is back with another story of affluent, sophisticated people -- here a therapist and her oncologist husband -- who discover that their privileged life was not quite as wonderful as it seemed. This one has "major motion picture" written all over it.
Updike

Updike by Adam Begley


Ok, so I'm a booknerd. You knew that. But to judge from the outpouring of acclaim both upon Updike's death in 2009 and, of course, well before, I bet there are a lot of us. Critic and biographer Adam Begley's take on the author of the Rabbit books and The Witches of Eastwick (among many others) deserves a look , and not only because the cover photo of the author as a young handsome man is so inviting.

See Seira's YA Books I Can't Wait to Read in 2014
See Robin's Geeking Out: Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Horror in 2014

Sara Says: All I’ve Missed in 2013

Saranelson

I know: you don't pity me. My life is all about reading, so what's to complain? On the other hand, for a reader like me -- and, I suspect, all of the members of our wonderful editorial team, as well as many, many of you booklovers out there -- the one thing we hate most is MISSING a book. Just plain not seeing, not knowing about, or not getting to something you've meant to get to -- something that others have read (or not) and praised (or even not). Herewith, then, are the novels I'm packing in my holiday bag next week. (Stay tuned for my New Year's wish-list, coming soon.)

 

SomeoneI love Alice McDermott, always have and always will. (Charming Billy's a favorite). So how on Earth did I miss Someone, her latest novel and, according to my brilliant sister, who reads way more and better than I do, one of her best. This "deceptively simple" tale of an ordinary woman who has vision problems (literally and figuratively) is first up for the plane ride pre-Christmas.

 

 

 

 

 

People in the Trees The People in the Trees has been called "challenging," and while I admit that scares me a little, I'm fascinated by anything called a cross between Norman Rush's Mating, Ann Patchett's State of Wonder, Barbara Kingsolver's The Poisonwood Bible, and Peter Matthiessen's At Play in the Fields of the Lord. That, and it has a very weird and compelling cover.

 

 

 

 

 

Good Lord Bird A confession. I predicted that The Good Lord Bird would win the National Book Award for fiction, and to everyone's astonishment (including mine, sort of) I was right. But I hadn't read it. (I was basing my vote on the fact that The Color of Water, the author's memoir, was one of the great, successful but somehow still undersung books of its generation.) So I'm going to deny my usually perverse nature -- I hate to read a book AFTER it is an official award-winner -- and read this by New Year's.

 

 

 

 

The Mole The Mole is Peter Warner's fictional memoir about a modest Canadian spy in Washington, D.C., from the 1950s to the 1980s. They say it's clever, and moves quickly, and, you know, for a Homeland addict now off her third season feed, I need that.

Sara Says: Oprah's New Book Club Pick is Same Old Song, Only Better

Saranelson

When Oprah Winfrey announced today that Sue Monk Kidd's The Invention of Wings would be the newest selection in her Book Club 2.0, you could almost hear a symphony of hands slapping foreheads all over town. "Duh," was a typical first reaction: OF COURSE Oprah would choose this novel about the lifelong relationship between a white Southern girl/woman and the slave she was "gifted" by her mother on her eleventh birthday. It's about race, it's about strong women and it has a strong theme of redemption: all favorites of the media queen. (Not to mention that the author, Sue Monk Kidd, wrote The Secret Life of Bees, a 2002 novel also about Southern women and race, which was a huge best seller, but not an Oprah pick, for some reason.)

Book Club 2.0But I submit that for all its familiarity, The Invention of Wings is as much a new kind of Oprah pick as it is variation on the tried-and-true.

Let me back up here to say that for three years, from 2009 to 2012, I was the Books Editor at O, the Oprah Magazine, and was involved in the launching of the new book club in June 2012. The book was Wild by Cheryl Strayed, and while it had been a very successful memoir before Oprah picked it, it went higher and stayed longer on the best seller lists for months afterwards--O influence or coincidence, you decide. And while it's true that I had a hand in Oprah getting her hands on the book, the fact is that dozens--and I do mean dozens--of people, publishing professionals and not, regularly pitch her with ideas. (Really, I think the guys in the convenience stores near her homes have probably made suggestions as has anyone who has had a significant battle with weight.)

So here's the story: Oprah picks what she reads and what she likes. She doesn't automatically take anybody's word for any book. (Trust me: This much I know is true.) She needs to feel it herself. And so while I don't know how Kidd's book got to her, I have no doubt that she read every word of it and that she alone made the decision to feature it. She's a true book nerd that way, and I bet she wouldn't even mind my calling her that.

But back to Kidd's wonderful book, which I have to admit I approached with trepidation, fearing a sentimental take on this now-much-discussed topic; I don't need to name the books in recent years that addressed black/white relations in a somewhat cartoony fashion. But I was happily surprised. Based loosely on the story of Sarah Grimke, a pre-civil war South Carolina daughter of a slaveholding family who became an ardent abolitionist and all-around champion of women's rights, it doesn't have a cardboard character anywhere in its 300+ pages. Not Sarah Grimke herself, not her given slave Hetty aka Handful, not Denmark Vesey, a revolutionary and charismatic free black man. These are characters that could be stock, straight out of central casting, but in Kidd's hands, they're way more complicated than that.

Oprah, of course, has picked many similarly sophisticated books -- even Jonathan Franzen would have to agree with that, now that two of his novels were chosen!--but what makes this one particularly contemporary is, ironically, that it has a historical basis. This is the mood of the day: it's why Loving Frank (a novel loosely based on Frank Lloyd Wright and one of his lovers), The Women (ditto, but more lovers), The Paris Wife (Hemingway and one wife) and many many others have succeeded so well of late. We don't want just a good yarn anymore, it seems, we want a story that can teach us something, preferably about somebody we have heard of (I knew vaguely of the Grimke sisters before I cracked this book) who also happens to be somebody who can teach us something.

I think this was a great pick that does both what you would expect an Oprah book to do--be socially conscious and accessible--and something more. Sure, it's about a very specific period and very specific people. But it's also, like more and more novels of recent years, a novel that educates you without preaching: about history, about relationships, about life.

This article was first published on Huffington Post

Why I Love "The Goldfinch"

Every once in a while, if you’re really lucky, you come across a book that speaks directly to you, and describes your world while simultaneously introducing it to you as if for the first time. I can count on two hands the books that have done that for me. Wally Lamb’s She’s Come Undone was one. The World According to Garp—which, it seemed to me, absolutely everybody was reading, in paperback, the summer before my senior year in college—was another. Some people feel this way about A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius. And, of course, Harry Potter.

The Goldfinch is that kind of novel to me: a huge, rambling but still somehow tightly plotted, Dickensian tale of a boy and his beloved mother, and how her loss so unmoored him that, fourteen years and myriad misadventures later, he’s still grieving. I fell for it partly because as the mother of a son just off to college, it pulled the requisite heart strings. But The Goldfinch is more than a coming-of-age novel, though it is that, in the largest sense. It’s a rumination on art and truth, comparable in scope and importance (and this was the opinion of many reviewers, not just me) to Great Expectations and other famous bildungsromans. (And yes, one reviewer suggested, not kindly, that it was more JK Rowling than Dickens.)

Here’s what real people I know said about this book:

“I feel like I’ll have a hole in my life when I’m done with this book.”

“I started it thinking it would take so long to read all 750+ pages, and now I’m parceling it out to myself so it won’t end too soon.”

“Over the moon” is the common, old fashioned way some readers are putting it. I’ll just put it this way: I spent one weekend this summer sitting on the porch with an advance copy in my hands, moving my chair a few inches to the right to catch the sun as it rose, travelled across the sky and set, ten glorious Goldfinch pages at a time.

I guess a lot of people are obsessed. The book was in the top 10 on Amazon before it was even published, that’s how great the anticipation and advance word have been. It’s still there after publication, which suggests it doesn’t disappoint.

The Goldfinch is not perfect. It’s long, for sure. (“She writes two sentences for every one she needs to write,” says one woman I know. So did Faulkner, I say. And Tartt’s sentences are funnier, besides) Its last 100 pages flies off a cliff in an operatic stupor. But maybe it had to be that way, the less painful the reader’s separation anxiety to come.

The worst part? Knowing that since a book this moving, this enthralling and enveloping comes along, as I said, only every once in a while, it will be many, many moons until we see its like again.


Boty_rg_cover_thumb This piece comes from our free Best Books of 2013: Reader's Guide, which you can download now for your Kindle. It features interviews, essays, excerpts, and other fun extras about the year’s top 20 titles: Donna Tartt talks about her eating habits while writing The Goldfinch; Khaled Hosseini’s publicist discusses what it’s like to be on a national tour with him; David Finkel discusses the emotional impact following the 2-16 infantry battalion in Thank You for Your Service; and much more.

Sara Says: Give Me An Angry Heroine Any Old Time

The Woman UpstairsIn Claire Messud's ferocious The Woman Upstairs, middle-aged Nora, an artist-wannabe who is actually a frumpy suburban schoolteacher, announces her rage in the very first pages. "How angry am I? You don't want to know. Nobody wants to know about that."

But as the book goes on, she doesn't need to announce her feelings: every move she makes signals that the overwhelming impulse that drives her is rage. What's she so mad about? Everything, it seems. Or, as author Messud said in an interview in her publisher's office, "She had perhaps accepted that certain opportunities had been foreclosed [i.e. the ability to marry and certainly have children] and all of a sudden [when she met the young family with whom she became obsessed and immersed] somebody came along and opened the doors and said, 'Well, actually, you have one more chance'... But when those relationships fall apart, she's angry in exact proportion to how excited she was. She's angry about what she has lost." The Execution of Noa P. Singleton

Similar but different, Noa P. Singleton, the eponymous heroine of our debut this month is also angry, although she masks her rage as a smart alecky but blasé lack of concern for her fate as a prisoner on death row. She isn't moved when a young lawyer comes to try to get her sentence reversed; she isn't impressed when her long-lost father tries to establish a relationship with her; she doesn't jump when her victim's mother comes to her defense.

Noa and Nora--hmmm. What would Dr. Freud say about the echo of those names?--are both cut off from connection, and when either woman gets close to engaging with life, by choice or by chance, she can't help screaming her head off.

There's already been plenty written about whether Messud's heroine is so unlikable as to sink the success of the book. (Messud herself says she worried that people might be turned off by this character whom she says is neither biographical nor autobiographical, but is, nonetheless, "real.") And many have opined that an angry, unlikeable voice will never attract much of an audience, especially if that angry, unlikeable voice belongs to a female. ("Women's anger, in particular, is unseemly to some people," Messud understates.) And yet, the books keep coming--and keep selling.

There are few more likable, readable, perhaps even justifiably angry heroines than, Nora (hmm...that name again) Ephron's doppelganger in Heartburn. Or Fay Weldon's in the delightfully vicious, Lives and Loves of a She Devil, arguably the most delicious revenge novel of all time. See also, Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Or what about the predatory, rageful woman in Zoë Heller's spectacular What Was she Thinking: Notes on a Scandal? (Decent movie, but better book!) There are, of course, angry men, too. And while the therapists might say male rage is more societally accepted, if that were true, a novel like Kate Christensen's The Epicure's Lament, about a furious, broken down guy who decides to eat and drink himself to death, would be better known than it is.

"It is human to make choices against your own best interest," Messud says. By that definition, Noa is certainly human: she has plenty of opportunities to exonerate and excuse herself, but can't quite bring herself to do so because she's guilty of some things, if not the exact crimes for which she was convicted. Most of us, I think, would agree with Messud’s comment that "bad choices, as much as good ones if not more so, are what our lives are made of." Likewise, "bad," angry characters are what the best books can be made of.

Sara Says: Nora Ephron Knew From Lucky Guys

Nora Ephron On the one hand, Lucky Guy seems like a strange thing to have been written by the late Nora Ephron. It's a play, for one thing; it's about tabloid journalism in New York in the 1980s; it centers around a very hard drinking, Irish-American columnist named Mike McAlary, who won a Pulitzer Prize after some very public career ups and downs; it has no love story (a la Sleepless in Seattle), no sisterhood of wise cracking women (ditto, plus You've Got Mail, plus the fact of Ephron's three writer sisters in real life); no whimsy (unless you count the little bit of singing Lucky Guy's characters do in their many bars); it has no happy ending. And yet the play –- which runs on Broadway through June 16 –- turns out to be as Ephronesque as it could be, as longtime fans of the author/screenwriter will note.

Ephron was once a journalist for The New York Post, one of the tabloids that also employed McAlary, albeit in a different era. It's about writers and their sometimes blind ambitions (see characters throughout Ephron's oeuvre, and the fact that she was famously married to Carl "Watergate" Bernstein, as well as journalists Dan Greenberg and Nick Pileggi). And yes it's a play -– but so was Love, Loss and What I Wore, which Ephron and her sister Delia adapted from a charming novel. It's also -- most lovingly, if in a slightly sharper, more masculine way -- about New York, Ephron's longtime hometown, the setting for most of her writings, and a character in itself. And it stars Tom Hanks as McAlary; Hanks, as you recall, was in Sleepless, and was one of Ephron's good friends.

Tom Hanks in Lucky Guy
Photo: Joan Marcus

But even more than all that, there are lines and bits in this play that are vintage Nora, that display her unerring ear for dialogue. (One of my favorites: Eddie Hayes, the celebrity lawyer/operator who handles McAlary's career , brags he can get McAlary so much money that he could buy a house that "could have six kids" in it. "Eight, if they aren't too big." And, as one of McAlary's frenemies proclaims, McAlary is "a two-bit hack who got [Jimmy] Breslin's slot but not his talent."

Still, the word that comes to mind most throughout Lucky Guy is "legendary." In a couple of dozen short scenes, Ephron manages to evoke a whole world that might have been small, in that it took up only a little time and space, but that lives large in its own legend. It's only the reporters onstage, but they remind us of so many other people and places of the time: Donald Trump as he's divorcing Ivana, Elaine's (now defunct) restaurant, The Lion's Head (the writers' bar), Joey Buttafuocco, Rudy Giuliani, McAlary himself. Writing about legends, of course, should come as no surprise, since Ephron was and has, since her death last June, become pretty legendary herself.

If you can't get to the Broadhurst theater by June 16, console yourself with some of other Ephron's great writing: Wallflower at the Orgy (written close to the time of the events in the play); Heartburn; I feel Bad About My Neck; I Remember Nothing; and Scribble Scribble (which is expected to be reissued this fall).

 

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