Fun With Dirk and Bree
Dirk Miller and Bree Wellington, fictional Ur-yuppies in the city that gave us sensitivity training and outdoor cafés featuring cold poached swordfish in a creamy rosemary vinaigrette, have appeared in Alice Kahn’s nationally syndicated newspaper columns before. But in Fun With Dirk and Bree, her first novel, the San Francisco-based writer introduces a fictional Lifestyle Journalist, Laura Gloriana (née Laurie Gurvitz), who has built her own trendy magazine-writing career on chronicling Dirk and Bree’s every purchase and pitfall. Laura is as ambitious as D&B are acquisitive; while they get and spend, Laura drifts from boyfriend to boyfriend and dreams of winning an Oscar for the screenplay she’ll write based on her subjects’ lives.
Then stuff happens: Dirk and Bree face divorce. Laura, by extension, faces ”career Chernobyl.” Laura’s father dies. The San Francisco earthquake of 1990 hits. Big pieces of everything that once mattered in the 1980s break off and fall into the Pacific.
Kahn is great at looking at the debris; born in Chicago and sharpened in New York (the cities that gave us what’s it to ya, bub?), she’s adept at mocking the hand that feeds her radicchio. (Her smart, sharp columns were collected most recently in Luncheon at the Cafe Ridiculous.) She’s less great at moving the novel along, at least without the help of an earthquake. You want good novelistic bone structure? See a plastic surgeon. You want funny yuppie trashing? Shout Laura Gloriana. B