Wendy Wasserstein Elements of Style

ISBN 13 : 9780739333662

Elements of Style

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9780739333662: Elements of Style

Book by Wasserstein Wendy

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Frankie completely forgot Samantha ever said she would call. But on a Thursday night while she was dressing for an exercise class the phone rang. Frankie decided to let the machine pick it up and concentrate instead on getting to the gym. If it was her office or something important, it would have been on her pager or the other line.

"Hi, this is Samantha Acton. Great to see you at the ballet." Frankie stared at her phone machine as if it were malfunctioning. "Will you come to dinner next Thursday? I mentioned to my husband, Charlie, that I saw you and he said he'd love for us to get together."

Frankie uncharacteristically lunged for the phone with her exercise tights still around her knees.

"Oh, hi, Samantha."

“Oh, you’re there. Screening, are you?”

"I win a lot of free trips to Orlando. And then there's my father's wife, Helen."

"Oh, I remember her. She wore leopard while all our mothers were in tweeds."

"I’m amazed you remember her!" Frankie was truly impressed.

"She was sexy, and you know, there wasn't a whole lot of that back then. So will you come?"

"Sure. I think so."

"Great. We live at East Sixty-sixth and Fifth, number 4. Say eight o’clock. Can’t wait. Charlie will be so pleased."

Frankie took her tights off her legs and sat down on the couch. She knew there was no way she would still be exercising tonight. Somewhere, she felt enough sense of accomplishment that after thirty years she was finally invited to the cool girls' table.

"I'm going upstairs to Acton." Frankie stopped at the white-gloved Fifth Avenue doorman.

"Elevator to your right."

As Frankie entered the formal lobby she wondered why Samantha didn't live somewhere hipper or less imposing. Then again, Christmas tree earrings in a room full of painters and filmmakers is a yawn. But in a room full of investment bankers and inherited wealth it's practically performance art.

The elevator door opened to a spare gallery of beige walls and Rothkos. A butler opened the door and a waiter appeared with a tray of caipirinhas.

"Can I take your coat?" the butler asked.

"Oh sure."

Frankie gave him her coat and, for some reason she didn't understand, her purse.

"Would you like to take your shoes off?"

Frankie actually didn't want to. They were suede boots which took her forever to get on. But she was too good a guest not to do what she was told. She sat down in the vestibule to remove them.

The multiple shades of beige continued into the living room. Even Frankie, who had virtually no sense of décor, couldn't miss the deliberately understated eggshell and dusted cocoa linen couches, the bleached floors, the faded Gustave Lefèvre and Eugene Atget photographs on the walls, and the contemporary Cindy Shermans and Clifford Rosses in the corner. She decided that a speck of dust would never have the chutzpah to rear its head here.

Samantha walked into the room arm in arm with an elegant older-looking man. As far as Frankie could make out, Samantha was wearing Prada, or maybe it was Gucci, sheer silver-spangled bell-bottom pants and a sleeveless silver lamé tank top. Her shoes were at least four-inch-high Manolo, or maybe Jimmy Choo, silver sandals, with lace ties around the ankle. For a moment, Frankie was flummoxed why Samantha and her friend were permitted to wear shoes and she wasn't. As she turned her head to acknowledge her host, Frankie noticed a small Giacometti sculpture inconspicuously placed on the bookshelf.

"Welcome. I'm so happy you're here." Samantha leaned down and kissed both of Frankie's cheeks. "Do you know my dear friend Jil Taillou?"

"No, I don't think so," Frankie replied.

"Jil worked for years at Sotheby's, and I was just showing him our renovations."

"It's a wonderful apartment. So calm. And I love the view," Frankie said, looking out at the Sixty-sixth Street transverse and the lights of Central Park South. "Did Pippa Rose design it?"

Jil put down his Grey Goose on the rocks. "Pippa Rose! You must be joking!" he said with a slight European accent. "She couldn't do anything as elegant as this. She's a chintzaholic!"

Samantha and Jil shared a laugh and sat down. Frankie followed them while silently sizing up her fellow guest. She hated herself for so easily categorizing people, but she was after all a scientist, and methodology had to start somewhere. As Jil Taillou reached for an olive, Frankie decided he was definitely gay, on the board of City Opera, well read, and actually from Brooklyn. Nobody's real name is Jil Taillou, especially if they worked at Sotheby's. Plus anyone with that kind of untraceable Middle European accent most likely studied French at Midwood High in Brooklyn.

At this point in her life, Frankie wished all her hosts would stop inviting an extra man to dinner for her. She frankly would prefer not having the illusion of an escort. Besides, these men were always decidedly unavailable but full of opinions, gossip, and connections. But every hostess she knew insisted on an even number of boy-girl seating. Frankie looked forward to a time when she'd be too old for anyone to bother.

"So there I was in Rome with Beatrice." Jil made the point of using the Italian pronunciation. "And we are supposed to fly to Beirut the next day for Amir's engagement party. And you know Mrs. Ouiss had organized the most fabulous party. But we can't go because the entire country is on strike."

"Oh, the Italians are always on strike." Samantha lit a cigarette.

"No, but here's the best part. We had the party in the Vatican instead."

"No!" Samantha seemed riveted.

"Really?" Frankie attempted to dive in.

"Beatrice is related somehow to the captain of the guards who gives private tours to Barbra Streisand and Sting in the pope's closet."

Samantha grinned. "I love this!"

"So they had the engagement party in the pope's closet. Dona nobis pacem, darling. If you think your Gucci pants are a great brocade, you haven’t seen the pontiff’s evening wear!"

Samantha was now convulsively laughing with her hand in Jil's lap as he continued. "Oh my God! Of course I had to try something on! His Holiness is a little shorter than I am but I look a lot nicer in a high collar. And this is the best! I told them anytime they want to have a Vatican sale, I'd do the auction."

"Whose auction?" a middle-aged man in black corduroys and a dark blue shirt asked as he walked into the room. "You guys are having entirely too much fun in here."

Frankie recognized him immediately. Charlie Acton, Omaha, Nebraska. He was a year behind her at Princeton. Nice Guy. A little straight. Army ROTC. He was someone Frankie said "hey" to while walking across campus. She didn't really know him except for a zoology class they had together, and she hadn't thought about him in at least twenty years. Charlie kissed Samantha and sat down beside her.

"Sorry I'm late, sweetheart, I got caught up with that interview."

"Well, we're having a wonderful time. Jil's telling us about Amir's engagement party at the Vatican."

"Wow! Sorry I missed it. Great to see you, Jil." He embraced Jil in the way that Frankie recently noticed straight men pointedly do.

"Francesca Weissman." He took her hand. "I haven't seen you since sophomore-year zoology. I was so happy when Samantha told me she had run into you."

"Were you two college buddies?" Jil asked. "I always wished we were. Just very nice acquaintances," Charlie answered, and helped himself to a caipirinha. "Deixa bebida!" He raised his glass and tossed off the toast in effortless Portuguese.

"What does that mean?" Frankie put down her glass.

Charlie laughed. "It gets you drunk."

While Jil repeated the pope's closet story for Charlie during dinner, Frankie remembered talking to Charlie once after class. It was the day he was rejected from the Ivy Club. Frankie had very deliberately never tried to belong to any eating clubs. Instead, she spent her time outside of class stage-managing for the Triangle Club, the illustrious collegiate theatrical group. But Charlie decidedly wanted the validation. Charlie was a bit awkward as an undergraduate. He listened to James Taylor and Simon & Garfunkel when everyone else had moved on. Frankie remembered that for weeks he carried around a copy of This Side of Paradise in his back pocket. Charlie was the kind of kid who wore a denim jacket because that’s what he grew up wearing in Omaha. Frankie also remembered he always called her Francesca. He said it was what F. Scott would have done.

When the dessert bowls came Jil exclaimed, "I love these bowls. Très moderne classique."

"It's Alvar Aalto." Charlie casually mentioned the name.

"The Finn?" Jil asked only to underscore that, of course, he knew the origins of modern design.

"Yes. We're collecting him now. After dinner I'll take you into the library to see the most terrific chair. In my mind Aalto makes Mies look like Ethan Allen." Charlie smiled wryly at his insider put-down.

"Ever since I burnt all of Charlie's old home furnishings all hell has broken loose." Samantha laughed heartily.

A waiter appeared with a dessert tray of sliced bananas, nuts, ice cream logs shaped like miniature bananas, hot fudge, and whipped cream in silver pitchers.


Revue de presse :

“Wasserstein had the rare ability to be sardonic and compassionate at once . . . [She] demonstrates, with sly grace, a vulnerability that cuts across class lines.”

The New Yorker

“A tart satire . . . Once again, Wasserstein, who will always be remembered as a woman’s woman and a New Yorker’s New Yorker, proves that humor is the best refuge from life’s sorrows.”


“Wasserstein delivers with seductive intimacy . . . Beguiling . . . Amusing and telling with just the right touch of melancholy.”

—Sherryl Connelly, Daily News

“You can hear the raucous laughter, fell the well-honed satiric bite–and sense the well-guarded private tears–throughout Elements of Style, [Wasserstein’s] first, and sadly, her only novel. . . . Think a modern-day Jane Austen observing the socialites who throw benefits for the New York City Ballet, compare notes on pediatricians and private schools, and visit the ghetto only to attend gala parties that require a cutting-edge installation.”

—Heidi Weiss, Chicago Sun-Times

“Her legacy is a cautionary truth, offered with a signature wit that we will miss for a long time to come.”

—Julia Glass, More

“Quintessential Wendy.”

Entertainment Weekly

“Wasserstein’s book has a wit and a heart.”

—Jenny Shank, Rocky Mountain News

“Wendy Wasserstein’s smart, funny sensibility bubbles up on almost every page of her first and last novel . . . Observant and sharp . . . Full of the ironic humor she brought to the stage . . . Vividly drawn . . . [Wasserstein’s] one and only novel serves as a poignant reminder of a talented, astute, warm-hearted woman gone too soon.”

—Christine Dolen, The Miami Herald

“With her usual keen ear, Wasserstein pins [her characters] in the pages like gilded butterflies, brilliantly contrasting a society committed to status and surface glitter with the fragility and impermanence of life. . . . [A] wry, clear-sighted book–a final gift this generous, funny woman has left us.”

—Marianne Evett, The Cleveland Plain Dealer

“One can finish this funny, compassionate book with an aching heart.”


“Playwright Wendy Wasserstein’s posthumous debut novel showcases all her comic gifts, and unforgettable Elements of Style.”

Vanity Fair

“A bright social comedy . . . Sleek, entertaining.”

—Caryn James, The New York Times Book Review

“Chick-lit with a chill and a pedigree . . . A blithe, funny feat of escapism and a sobering reminder of the inescapable.”

—Janet Maslin, The New York Times

“At the heart of Wasserstein’s social critique lies the same intriguing paradox Henry James explored: those with old money, sophistication, and polish are attracted ot the raw energy (the vulgarity even) of society’s nakedly aspiring climbers.”

—Elizabeth Judd, The Atlantic Monthly

“Wasserstein peppers her dishy humor with piquant and poignant insights, transcending the chick-lit clichés that Style flirts with. You would expect no less from such a sharp and generous spirit.”

—Elysa Gardner, USA Today

“This beautiful little pink number with its stylish ribbon is just great. It is ‘chick lit’ fiction to end all such; only in Wendy’s case, there is more ‘lit’ to it than in others of the same genre.”

—Liz Smith

“Readers looking for an arch and sexy high-society fantasy with edge will be perfectly satisfied with this tart tale of excess and retribution in the city.”


“Pure Wendy! Wendy Wasserstein effortlessly makes the leap from stage to page with a novel that is loving, compassionate, flat-out funny. Wendy loved the word ‘scintillating’ which is the best way to describe her stunning Elements of Style.”

—John Guare

“Bold, nimble and funny to its fingertips,  Elements of Style is a delight, a triumph. A book that no self-respecting New Yorker should be without. Those cursed with the hell of  multiple residences will self-evidently need several copies–and spares, for house-guests.”

—Flora Fraser

“Wasserstein gets the trappings and tribulations (of friendship and of romance) right, making her depiction of the rich and fab trying to connect with one another witty and entertaining.”

Publishers Weekly

“[Wasserstein does] a good job of simultaneously poking fun at high society and evoking the anxiety of maintaining a perfect image, capturing a world that is at once fascinating, appalling, and amusing. . . . A sensuous read . . . Wasserstein’s ironic perspective saves it from being merely decadent. Recommended for popular fiction collections.”

Library Journal

From the Hardcover edition.

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Wendy Wasserstein
ISBN 10 : 0739333666 ISBN 13 : 9780739333662
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Castle Rock
(Pittsford, NY, Etats-Unis)
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Description du livre État : Brand New. Book Condition: Brand New. N° de réf. du libraire 97807393336621.0

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