HERE KITTY KITTY
They say the best nonfiction reads like fiction. But is the reverse also true? It would seem so after reading this gorgeously written debut novel, whose narrator is so keenly evoked that her reminiscences read like a memoir. Lee is one of New York's party girls extraordinaire. She's also a complete train wreck. She manages a trendy Tribeca restaurant yet can't pay the rent on a railroad flat in Brooklyn's hipster ghetto. Not many salaries could support her ravenous appetite for drugs or her taste for white knee-length furs from Bergdorf's. Still in mourning over her mother's death two years ago, Lee likens herself to a pint of raspberries: "On top the ruby berries looked juicy. Unwrapped and spilled into the colander, they revealed undersides black with rot." In deftly rendered scenes and flashbacks, Libaire introduces us to the eccentrics who occupy Lee's life: Yves, her French sugar daddy; Kelly, an enigmatic wanderer; Belinda, her reformed best friend. She's able to capture a character's essence in a single, lovely phrase, particularly Lee's mother: "Guests would arrive at eight and find her in a damp bikini, only beginning to scour cookbooks for ideas. But the night would be unforgettable." Laced with musings about art and marked by unexpected metaphors ("Drugs turned the cardboard box of an ordinary day into a honeycomb, dripping and blond"), the book summons consistently powerful images. But like a sloppy night of boozing recalled the morning after, some readers will wonder what the point was. More of an extended character study than a plot-focused narrative, it floats along on a cloud of Lee's narcissism, celebrating "poverty and dependence" as glamorous, despite efforts to convince the reader otherwise. Agent, Sally Wofford-Girand . (May)
Forecast: Those looking for a darker, more literary slant of chick lit would do well to check this out. Libaire's fashion sense is as well-honed as her perfectly turned phrases.