cover image Girls They Write Songs About

Girls They Write Songs About

Carlene Bauer. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $27 (320p) ISBN 978-0-374-28226-4

Bauer’s appealing if aimless latest (after Frances and Bernard) follows the friendship of two women in New York City from the late 1990s through the aughts. Charlotte Snowe and Rose Pellegrino apply for a staff editor job at a music magazine, and that’s where they meet; Rose gets the job and Charlotte eventually gets hired as an editor. The two quickly develop a close bond, but jealousies both romantic and professional eventually rear their heads. When Rose sets aside her writing commitments to marry Peter, Charlotte takes it as a personal affront and it eventually becomes a wedge between them, and as one ascends in her career, the other’s decline is put into greater relief. There’s not much of a plot, just a bunch of time in bars, clubs, and restaurants and conversations that don’t quite pass the Bechdel test (lots of talk about men, their bosses, relationships, and sex), and by the end it just sort of fizzles out. Still, Bauer has a talent for exacting language, particularly when describing the characters’ attempts at navigating an era in which it feels like feminism is over (“We were neither selfish enough nor selfless enough to become heroines”). There are better stories of moving to the city, but this makes for a charming enough time capsule. Agent: PJ Mark, Janklow & Nesbit Assoc. (June)