When Lauren Holmes, the author of Barbara the Slut (Riverhead, Aug.), first told her friend, the literary agent Duvall Osteen, that she was writing a book, Osteen was “terrified.” “I thought, ‘Oh, no. This ruins friendships,’” she says. She was relieved, then, when she actually began reading Holmes’s stories. “I was completely bowled over.” The collection was “funny and perceptive,” the writing “beautiful.”
Some weeks later, in January of 2014, Osteen took Holmes out to breakfast and offered to represent her. Holmes replied, “You’re the first agent I’ve talked to. It’ll be like marrying the first person you sleep with!”
But rushing in appears not to have been foolish. Barbara the Slut, which takes a comic view of the aimlessness and loneliness of the millennial generation, has been named a 2015 must-read by publications such as Esquire and the Village Voice.
Holmes, 30, began working on the collection in 2009, while pursuing an M.F.A. at CUNY Hunter. She wanted to write about “this extended adolescence, where we have people in their late teens and 20s [who have] no freaking idea what to do with their lives,” she says.
Rebecca Saletan, Holmes’s editor at Riverhead, says, “I probably read for voice more than anything, and [Holmes’s] voice is just extremely unusual.” Some readers at Riverhead found the stories “hilarious,” she says, while others found them “incredibly moving.” “It’s hard to have that emotional range.”
And the title? “When I send out galleys... it definitely turns heads,” Osteen says. “That’s really fun to see.”