A Moment of Jen
THE NEXT BEST THING — In Stores July 3rd!

Sunday, September 24, 2006
posted by Jen at 9/24/2006 06:55:00 PM

Updates: the eye is feeling better but still looks gross. The Access Hollywood piece will air, with any luck, sometimes this week. I lobbied concertedly to be inscribed in the Book of Life. With any luck, it will happen. And my project this week will be to get my MySpace page to play "I'm Tired" by Lili von Schtupp.

Regular readers of this blog know that one of my intermittent guilty pleasures is the New York Times Book Review’s Inside the List column. As the author, and reader, of popular fiction, I’m always amused to imagine how the editors of that august publication throw up a little in their mouths every time they’re forced to mention an actual best-seller…or, better yet, go into Cirque du Soleil-worthy contortions to avoid having to mention those illegitimate pieces of mere entertainment.

Even by the Times’ standards of haughty obliviousness, where a column that ostensibly focuses on the best-seller list is permited to dwell on books that aren’t on the list, are out of print, have yet to be printed, were written in other languages, etc., rather than give even a drop of ink to the latest by, say, Tess Gerritsen or Sandra Brown or Fern Michaels or, okay, THE GUY NOT TAKEN (number 10 with a bullet!), this week’s column was a doozy.

We open with a discussion of Nell Freudenberger. No, her novel is not on the best seller list. It is not on the extended bestseller list. But her publisher has used the word “quartile” in an ad. Isn’t that droll? (Note to self: get publisher to use equally absurd encomiums in next ad. Maybe they could say I’m in the upper decile of Jewish female novelists with one kid and a small dog in Philadelphia?).

Freudenberger, column editor Dwight Garner writes, has been supplanted in the media by two other young authors – the much-photographed Marisha Pessl, who's 28, and Claire Messud, who is 39.

Thirty-nine? You can still be a young author at 39? Why, by those standards, I’m practically fetal!

The column’s final item makes approving note of an author whose yet-to-be-published novel claims that “he divides his time between the front and back rooms of his apartment” – a clear swipe, Garner chuckles, at those elitist swine whose book flaps boast that they divide their time between, say, the Hamptons and Gstaad.

Right on, brother! You take it to the man! Tell those tea-sipping pinkie-lifters where they can stick that hunk of triple-cream Brie! Power to the people! POWER TO THE –


I just turned to the third page of the book review, and learned that contributor Jennifer Senior "grew up in Brooklyn and Chappaqua.”

Never mind.

And that wasn’t even the funniest part of the blurb on Senior, who, editors tell us, graduated from Princeton "in the early 1990’s.”

Now really. Most people who attended college can reliably tell you the year they got their diplomas. Most people with Ivy League degrees will reliably give you this information within five minutes of your first hello.

So what’s with this “early 1990’s” stuff? Was Senior hit on the head with a frozen block of condensed pretension? When the editors asked, was she like, “Oh, gee, I dunno, it could have been 1993, or 1994, but it’s all kind of a blur, the Hootie and the Blowfish was just playing so loud, man…”

For the record, Jennifer Senior graduated in 1991, which I know because she was my classmate, and which, by the Messud standard, makes both of us spring chickies.

And that, my friends, is how you work your Ivy League degree into a casual conversation (or blog post). You see how I did that? Suavely.
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