cover image Vintage Contemporaries

Vintage Contemporaries

Dan Kois. Harper, $27.99 (336p) ISBN 978-0-06-316241-9

Kois’s charming if schematic latest (after the memoir How to Be a Family) charts the lives of two off-and-on-again friends from the early 1990s through the mid-aughts. In 1991, Emily, a Midwestern transplant newly entering the literary world as an agent’s assistant, meets another Emily, a hard-partying playwright living in an East Village squat. Punk Emily turns publishing Emily into Em, reasoning that “if we were characters in a story... it would be pretty confusing that we were both named Emily.” More than a decade later, Em—going by Emily again—is a senior editor and a new mother. It’s been eight years since she last saw punk Emily, the latter’s addiction having caused a rupture in their friendship. Punk Emily is sober now, and when publishing Emily wanders into the bar where she works, she hopes they can reconcile. Kois meanders through roughly sketched plot points—the lukewarm comeuppance of Emily’s boss for his indelicate behavior toward the women at the office; a memorial protest at the old squat, now another expensive New York apartment building; the change in pace of life with a two-year-old, rather than a newborn—and resolves the substantial conflict that arises between the Emilys too quickly. With its sharp edges filed into a too-perfect smile, this one lacks bite. (Jan.)