Francesca Delbanco Ask Me Anything: A Novel

ISBN 13: 9780393326468

Ask Me Anything: A Novel

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9780393326468: Ask Me Anything: A Novel

"An engaging, screwball first novel....A genuine pleasure."―The New Yorker

Twenty-six-year-old Rosalie Preston works by day as an advice columnist for the romantically perplexed readership of Girl Talk magazine. But her true passion is for the stage and for her fledgling theater troupe, the First Borns, a tight pack of friends and lovers who live (mostly) in the East Village. When Rosalie comes to the notice of suave Berglan Starker, a theater underwriter―and also the father of her best friend―she finds herself caught up in a very different affair from those she so jauntily untangles in her column for teens. Struggling to be savvy but sage, she is swept along by curiosity, a taste for adventure, and a penchant for those alluring complimentary toiletries in New York's ritziest hotels. Fame versus art, sex versus love, ambition versus friendship, room service versus restaurants: these are the choppy waters the First Borners must navigate―together and, perhaps ultimately, apart―in this delicious novel.

"The best of what the chick-lit genre has to offer: it's wry, compelling, and keenly observed."―Library Journal "What a delightful surprise....[Delbanco's] voice is fresh and wise....The angst here is warm and funny and has the true tone of excited urgency and humility that fuels youth."―Mary Ambrose, Boston Globe "Absurdly entertaining....The wistful and wise-cracking Rosalie is a winning screwball heroine."―Mark Rozzo, Los Angeles Times Book Review

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About the Author:

Francesca Delbanco received her MFA from the University of Michigan, where she later taught. She now lives in Los Angeles. This is her first novel.

From The Washington Post:

In her first novel, Ask Me Anything, Francesca Delbanco revisits popular, well-traveled literary terrain. Her protagonist, Rosalie Preston, is 26, a struggling actress and a New Yorker. She lives in the East Village and juggles a busy schedule of hanging out with wisecracking friends, dealing with boy problems and coping with a frustrating day job. It's all terribly familiar stuff, even if you aren't a chick-lit enthusiast. In our collective imagination, the metropolitan single woman is a well-worn stereotype -- man-crazy, confused, searching for a life. Sometimes it's hard not to wonder why, or for what deeper revelations, authors are still plundering their pasts to meditate on the dating rituals and professional quandaries of the urban young.

Yet there's something fresh and optimistic about Ask Me Anything, mostly because there's something optimistic about Delbanco (yes, she's the daughter of writer Nicholas Delbanco). While she doesn't have anything shockingly new to say about the state of the twentysomething, she takes her writing, which is careful and lovely, seriously. Maybe even too seriously; at times, Delbanco's aggressively contrived dialogue could be taken down a notch. Still, Ask Me Anything doesn't feel primed for a screenplay and a Hollywood deal, as so many sexy first novels do.

It helps, too, that Delbanco's narrator is so likable and average -- an Everygirl down to her plain brown hair and healthy hips. Rosalie's the type to pause and wonder why she and her girlfriends don't talk about "human rights crisis in Colombia, or the economic repercussions of sanctions against Cuba," as any Harvard-educated woman might, and then happily plunge back into silly talk about boys over a pedicure. Rosalie comes off as confident but reflective, more prone to soul-searching than neurosis. To support her acting career, she works as the "Annie Answers" advice columnist for GirlTalk magazine, and between chapters Delbanco includes a teenager's letter and Rosalie's wise, funny response to it. "Trust me, I've lived through it," Rosalie writes to her advice-seekers, and it's this cozy, feel-good tone that makes Ask Me Anything inviting.

Rosalie is also a member of the First Born Company, a theater troupe made up of her friends from college: the wealthy and demanding Bella Starker; easygoing Cam, who's Rosalie's sometime lover; wayward, stringy-haired Jake, the lovably dirty one; perfect child Grace; and ambitious director Evan. An upcoming alternative theater festival has the group in a frenzy, which only gets worse when a surly Irish playwright, Declan Pearse, arrives to complicate things.

The pot-bellied Declan turns up in obvious contrast to shiny Berglan Starker, Bella's playboy father. Early in the novel, Berglan seduces Rosalie into an uptown affair. Berglan's married, but Rosalie doesn't think twice about it -- there's little moralizing in this novel -- except to fret about contracting "some tony STD." The contrast between Rosalie's humble downtown life and the unabashed tonyness of the Starkers' world provides the novel's most interesting material. Delbanco is honest about the economic status of Rosalie's peers -- children of baby boomers who went to Ivy League schools and then moved to Manhattan. Surprise: They aren't subsisting on Ramen noodles. Rosalie isn't rich, and she supports herself, but her friends have million-dollar country houses, where she can happily relax in the sun in peace. Making it in New York, among this tiny but often influential subset of the population, has more to do with emotional and psychological struggles than financial ones (hence all the hand-wringing over seemingly insignificant things). This contented condition doesn't make Delbanco's characters unpleasant, however; they're contributing to the vitality of the city, the way young artists usually do. They just happen to have nice shoes as well.

Despite her affiliation with this group, Rosalie suffers from a subtle and interesting inferiority complex. She grew up comfortably in small-town Massachusetts, but she isn't cultured in that way, that way you simply don't know exists until you go to Harvard or visit a friend's parents' Upper East Side apartment. "You can read every book in the public library," Rosalie explains, "but that doesn't mean you'll ever have an innate understanding of the difference between wall-to-wall carpeting and area rugs, or pure cotton bedding and polyester fill." Rosalie's tender insecurity leaves her understandably vulnerable to an older, more sophisticated man.

Rosalie craves more than Berglan Starker's approval; she's after the illusion of a life. In many ways, Ask Me Anything is a coming-of-age tale. Delbanco's generation (she's almost 30) often puts off settling down in order to pursue personal fulfillment, and that can make the twenties a terrifying and messy time. When you're alone, it's hard to conceive of what "a life" is outside of society's more esteemed parameters: spouse, house and child.

And that's especially true in Manhattan, where the flashiest, most visible lifestyles appear deceptively easy to attain. As Rosalie learns, carving out a respectable place in the world takes time, pain, more than a few mistakes. After all the heartbreak and career anxiety, it isn't surprising that a thoughtful survivor of the twenties would want to reconsider the follies and lessons of youth, and maybe even write a book about the whole ordeal.

Reviewed by Suzy Hansen


Copyright 2004, The Washington Post Co. All Rights Reserved.

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Descrizione libro W. W. Norton & Company. Paperback. Condizione libro: New. Paperback. 352 pages. Dimensions: 8.3in. x 5.3in. x 1.0in.An engaging, screwball first novel. . . . A genuine pleasure. The New Yorker Twenty-six-year-old Rosalie Preston works by day as an advice columnist for the romantically perplexed readership of Girl Talk magazine. But her true passion is for the stage and for her fledgling theater troupe, the First Borns, a tight pack of friends and lovers who live (mostly) in the East Village. When Rosalie comes to the notice of suave Berglan Starker, a theater underwriterand also the father of her best friendshe finds herself caught up in a very different affair from those she so jauntily untangles in her column for teens. Struggling to be savvy but sage, she is swept along by curiosity, a taste for adventure, and a penchant for those alluring complimentary toiletries in New Yorks ritziest hotels. Fame versus art, sex versus love, ambition versus friendship, room service versus restaurants: these are the choppy waters the First Borners must navigatetogether and, perhaps ultimately, apartin this delicious novel. The best of what the chick-lit genre has to offer: its wry, compelling, and keenly observed. Library Journal What a delightful surprise. . . . Delbancos voice is fresh and wise. . . . The angst here is warm and funny and has the true tone of excited urgency and humility that fuels youth. Mary Ambrose, Boston Globe Absurdly entertaining. . . . The wistful and wise-cracking Rosalie is a winning screwball heroine. Mark Rozzo, Los Angeles Times Book Review This item ships from multiple locations. Your book may arrive from Roseburg,OR, La Vergne,TN. Paperback. Codice libro della libreria 9780393326468

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