When is a book more than a book? Well, perhaps when its author is a billionaire’s daughter who gets mad media coverage (The New Yorker, USA Today, The New York Times) for her debut novel, and creates a controversial — and to some, patently offensive — short film to promote it.
The author in question is Holly Peterson, Upper East Side heiress, and she writes what she knows in The Manny, a slick, intermittently entertaining look at the lifestyles of the rich and fatuous who populate New York City’s toniest zip code. Her heroine, Jamie, is a network TV news producer; her husband Phillip is a WASPy lawyer with both an entitlement and an inferiority complex; and her three young children, especially son Dylan, are awkward victims of a life of overscheduled privilege. Enter the manny, a 29-year-old Brooklyn-based hottie with a masters’ degree and a remarkable ability to draw Dylan out of his neurotic funk, much to the chagrin of Phillip — and to the emotional and erotic satisfaction of Jamie. That much you can glean from the promo clip below, which — uh, well, we’ll let it speak for itself. Watch it, then check back in with us after the jump.
Media powerhouse Tina Brown compares The Manny enthusiastically to Tom Wolfe’s bourgeois-conflict classic Bonfire of the Vanities. (The well-connected Peterson also gets quotes from society chronicler Dominick Dunne and Vogue girl Plum Sykes.) A bitter Amazon.com commenter dubs it “Bonfire of the Banalities.” Frankly, it’s more the latter, though Peterson manages some deft moments; many of her characters lack nuance, and the office subplot lands with a resounding thud.
Still, it’s hard not to wonder what part schadenfreude plays in the criticism; is Peterson suffering for her background? Her position has no doubt played a large role in the amount of coverage she’s drawn, but that is a help or a hindrance to her literary efforts? We, for one, have read far worse efforts in the genre; then again, few of them receive extensive, flattering coverage in the hallowed pages of The New Yorker. Are we being unfairly hard on Peterson and her efforts? Or has she already burned through your good graces?