Tag Archives: friendship

Social (Media) Climbing: Everybody Rise by Stephanie Clifford (Audio) @MacmillanAudio

Image of audiobook on CD Everybody RiseEverybody Rise, a first novel by Brooklyn journalist Stephanie Clifford, was the hot book this summer — seen on bestseller and Best Beach Reads lists – then quickly incurring the inevitable backlash to the hype — because no book is liked by everyone, no matter how popular it gets.

Set in New York City before the 2008 economic crash, 26-year-old Evelyn — desperately resisting her class-conscious, nouveau riche mother’s urging to marry up and do it quickly – leverages her prep school alumna status to dump her mediocre post-college textbook marketing job to shill for an exclusive social media start-up — People Like Us — aimed at the beautiful people who appear in the Times‘ society pages, e.g. debutantes, former debutantes, family scions, eligible bachelors, etc.

Narrated wonderfully by Katherine Kellgren, the audiobook hooked me immediately, and should probably have gone on my 2015 list of favorite literary fiction on audio. Katherine Kellgren does all of the characters’ voices so well, but especially:

  • Evelyn’s mother (social snob with an undercurrent of neediness);
  • Evelyn’s prep school friend, Preston (drawling son of old money, with a strong whiff of despair);
  • Evelyn’s best prep school friend, Charlotte (brisk and practical, but sympathetic to friends who aren’t as well-adjusted);
  • Evelyn herself (smart enough to recognize her envy of upper-class privilege but not strong enough to resist it).

Listen to a spoiler-free AudioFile review and a clip from the audiobook on SoundCloud.

Will you love or hate this tragicomic story ? Try this infographic to help you decide!

send email to lauriec@baystatera.com for complete text of infographic

Well? Should you skip it or try it? Everybody tell!

Everybody Rise
Clifford, Stephanie (auth.)
Kellgren, Katherine (narr.)
Macmillan Audio
August 2015
9781427265272
12.5 hrs/11 CDs

Disclosure: I received a free advance review copy of this audiobook at a library conference last May, or possibly won it as a prize through Armchair BEA last spring.

Other opinions on the audiobook:
AudioFile (“splendid”)
Literate Housewife (“pleasantly surprised”)
Publishers Weekly (“marvelous narration”)

 

Deserves All the Big Praise It’s Getting: A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

cover imageI’ve been very selfish with my library copy of A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, and so I need to bring it back today.

A Little Life is my #1 favorite book so far this year, and I had so many pages marked with Post-its that I had hoped to write a review that would convey the power of this 700+-page novel that pulls you in and keeps you there.

But looking through the passages I have marked, I realize they’re too long – each sentence depends too much on what comes before and after and a single thought is continued over several paragraphs, so you can read an excerpt from the book on the publisher’s Web site instead.

Although written by a woman (the author of The People in the Trees, which I haven’t read yet), A Little Life is about the friendship of four men who roomed together at a Boston-area college (unnamed), then moved to New York City, where two of them were from, and hung out together in various configurations and apartments over the following decades.

They talk a LOT, so there is a lot of passionate, intellectual conversation – with each other, and also with other people who become important in their lives over time – about art and life. What may seem like youthful self-centeredness early in the book (which might be annoy readers who were annoyed by The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer – another long, very New York City, novel) is tempered by the overall tone of sad retrospection.

There’s a great deal of humor in A Little Life, but the compelling main character, Jude, has a hidden past, so even as people who come into his orbit are inevitably drawn to him, he tries to keep them from getting too close, which gives the whole story its air of tragedy.

If you like to get absorbed in big novels with lots of deep/witty conversation and observations about the lives of friends, family, and strangers seen on the subway, this is the book of the year for you!

A Little Life was short-listed for the Man Booker Prize and is a finalist for this year’s National Book Award. (Winner to be announced Nov. 17th). It doesn’t come out in trade paperback until January 26, 2016, so you’ll have to put the hardcover on your holiday gift wish list.

A Little Life
Yanagihara, Hanya
Doubleday, 2015
978-0-385-53925-8
720 pp.
$30.00, U.S.

Other bloggers’ opinions (all excellent):
As the Crowe Flies (and Reads)
Book Chatter

Lonesome Reader
River City Reading

Youthful Accident or Racial Incident: Upper West Side Story by Susan Pashman

cover imageIn Upper West Side Story, a first novel by philosophy professor and former attorney Susan Pashman, two families in Manhattan are pitted against each other after a tragic accident (possibly a crime) goes from the personal to the political.

The case of two eighth-grade boys – best friends, one white and one black, both in the gifted class and on the chess team – just horsing around or maybe not? – while returning a weekend class trip to Washington, D.C. is nothing like a recent incident of the three black students who opened fire on workers in a Brooklyn school cafeteria, thinks Bettina, who narrates most of the story. Max, the white eighth-grader who becomes a public figure overnight is her son.

Bettina’s a political liberal – an academic – who prides herself on raising her two children – Max and his younger sister Nellie – to be comfortable in a racially diverse, urban environment. Bettina’s husband, Stephen – a city planner enmeshed in local politics – can see clearly how Max and Max’s best friend Cyrus are being used as pawns in the game of racial politics played by the mayor, the district attorney, and most of all the most vocal local activist on racial issues – City Council member Marcus Hake, an African-American fighting for social justice and against racial inequality under the law.

Here’s an excerpt from Upper West Side Story to give you an idea of it:

I stood up to face Stephen, a lump swelling in my throat. “It is simple,” I cried. “I can’t stand all this conniving and second-guessing when the truth is perfectly obvious. It’s always some stupid game with you politicians. But they can’t play games with our son, Stephen. That’s just not going to happen!”

I tore down the hall to our bedroom and stared out at the city. Down every street, behind every window, lives were being ruined – choked by greed, poisoned by ambition, obliterated by self-interest. The city stared back at me, a professor of political theory, a stalwart campaigner for a more just world.

“Sweetheart,” Stephen said gently He stood in the doorway to our room. “I know this could be a bit hard on Max, but it’ll be worse if we try to head it off. Hake will get the press revved up and they’ll mix this in with the cafeteria case even if the D.A. does nothing. It’s better to let them investigate and find nothing. If we get in his way, Hake will blow things up as he always does.

“The mayor’s obviously desperate for a bone to throw to him. The D.A., I’m sure just wants to keep up the office’s image as tough on crimes against kids. She won’t be as eager as the mayor is to yield to Hake. It’s a game, as you said, but I think we have to let it run its course.”

“I won’t have our son made a scapegoat! I won’t let those games get anywhere near him. We owe Max some peace!”

I turned back to the window. I felt a tear start down my cheek and brushed it aside. “They have to leave us in peace, Stephen. You and me, but most of all Max.”

Author Susan Pashman has clearly thought a lot about race, especially in terms of schools and parenting. In January, she started a Kids & Race blog where she posts on these issues. Writing a nuanced novel about a family in crisis allows her to delve more deeply into the complexity of reality vs. theory and imagine what’s happening out of the public eye when an event that you’re used to reading about in the news hits home.

Harvard Square Editions is a publishing house formed by and for Harvard University alumni to publish literary fiction with a social or environmental message. The message in Upper West Side Story that racial politics don’t tell the whole story occasionally overpowers the fiction, but the multilayered story of family, city, and the law, told in the voices of Bettina and Max is moving, and the clash of Bettina’s academic theories and liberal ideals with her maternal desire to protect and defend her son is realistic and thought-provoking.

Upper West Side Story
Pashman, Susan
Harvard Square Editions
May 28, 2015
978-1-941861-03-5
276 pp.
$22.95, softcover

DIsclosure: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher for review. (I’m not part of the blog tour going on now, but check out it out for a chance to win one of 15 copies of Upper West Side Story.)