I have a few things to confess before we begin.
I picked up this book because I saw it on Go Fug Yourself.
I like serial killers. I mean I like BOOKS about serial killers - do not start writing me from jail, you murdering fiends. And I like clothes. So I decided to read this book because I was in the mood for some uptown Serial Mom action.
Errr... you know what I mean.
I decided to review this book in order to show that I am not all Snobby McTyraHater and I bow to no-one when it comes to a healthy appetite for escapist kitsch.
- Lastly, I have never previously read anything written by Ms. von Ziegesar, and I've never seen the show. But you knew that.
You also probably know where this is going. I mean, "MS. von Ziegesar" ... who am I trying to kid? I already sound like my 12th grade English teacher.
My 12th grade English teacher, Chase Simmons (and if that's not a name out of Gossip Girl I don't know what is), who looked like Homer Simpson but spoke in a booming preppy Gore Vidal-like mumble, would have pointed at MS. von Ziegesar with the middle finger of his right hand (because his chalk was held between his thumb and index finger, naturally) and announced in front of the whole class that MS. von Ziegesar seemed to have watched Cruel Intentions and American Psycho far too many times and was now laboring under an unfortunate misconception. Which he would then correct:
"Just because something is entertaining, MS. von Ziegesar, doesn't mean it's easy."
Go ask Choderlos de Laclos or Bret Easton Ellis, the authors of the stories that were adapted into those movies. Upper-class villainy is easy to imagine - the faux-civilized gloating that accompanies the ability to hop the waitlist for the latest Balenciaga handbag is just a baby step removed from a stylish stiletto between the ribs - but that just means it's quite difficult to depict without becoming boring.
You can't simply throw a bunch of crystal barware and Manhattan locations into a blender with a picture of Gwyneth Paltrow and a dash of Grenadine and expect to pour out a tangy cocktail of bloodstained society soap opera. No. Even - perhaps especially - a cocktail that strongly flavored is going to need some finesse. You want it insouciant, not in-your-face. You're going for an intriguing symphony of taste, not a blaring single note. You will have to strain that cocktail, and pour it out and try it again, and adjust things and try garnishes...
Shit, now I have to take a break.
Murder on the Roof of the Guggenheim Cocktail
by your neighborhood librarian
1 part Campari
1 part Hendricks gin
1/2 part Lillet Blanc
Shake vigorously with ice. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass that has been rimmed with orange peel. Dribble a tiny drop of bitter brown Punt e Mes into the drink so that it swirls around looking mysterious.
Last time I was on the roof of the Guggenheim, with its magical view of the Central Park reservoir, I really should have murdered a certain person. So I will drink this cocktail and think of what might have been.
You do the same.
Where was I? Oh yes. Hair color does not stand in for character definition. The movements involved in killing a girl with a pizza cutter have to string together as smoothly as the movements that make up spilling out of a taxicab while loaded to the gills. People on the Upper East Side do not have tumblers on their wet bars - they have highball glasses.
Most disappointing, however, is the lack of glee - if your society girl, like the Marquise de Merteuil, surreptitiously stabs herself with a fork when enduring insipidly polite conversation, the moment when she actually draws someone else's blood should be an ecstatic one. Drunken, bored, overentitled Lizzie Grubman-style run-over-the-little-people mayhem is not nearly as interesting.
Well, so much for trying to buck the Madame Hatey OldLadyPants streak I've been on lately. In a last-ditch attempt, allow me to point to a few fun, funny, fluffy YA novels with fabulous clothes and soapy plotlines, three-dimensional characters and coherent plots. Our girls deserve better, and these are:
Beauty Queens by Libba Bray.
The Darlings books by Melissa Kantor.
Read 'em and crack up!