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Zoe Heller:
Everything You Know
Zoe Heller
  Everything You Know  
Zoe Heller    
interview

an excerpt



  Journalist Zoë Heller's debut novel, Everything You Know, is a refreshingly cynical dark comedy filled with cringe-worthy, astute observations about life and its inhabitants. At its core this book is about loneliness, following the haphazard path of its misanthropic protagonist, writer Willy Muller, a man understandably hell-bent against appreciating life. Through a few decades worth of tragic events that may or may not have been beyond his control, Willy finds himself faced with potential reconciliation of his past through the posthumous journals of his daughter Sadie. Both Sadie, who has recently committed suicide, and her older sister Sophie, have been estranged from their father since the early '70s, when a vaguely-choreographed domestic dispute resulted in the death of their mother Oona. Willy has been by turn blamed for and absolved of the "accidental" death of his wife (during the fight she slipped and hit her head on the refrigerator door handle), but the erratically successful writer has recently agreed to turn his top-selling memoirs of the event into a screenplay.

When the novel opens, Willy is recuperating, from a stress-induced heart attack, at an immodest Mexican villa with his well-intentioned, yet painfully vapid girlfriend Penny. The death of his mother in his native England sends Willy on a chaotic homecoming, replete with an attempted reconciliation with his surviving daughter Sophie, who proves to respect little more of what remains of her father than the money in his wallet. It is through the reading of Sadie's heart-wrenching, bitingly honest journal entries, interspersed throughout Willy's narration, that our protagonist begins what will surely be a long road toward some sense of redemption.

Heller made her initial mark in her native England penning a weekly confessional for London's Sunday Times, a column that indiscreetly chronicled her misadventures as a single young woman living in New York and Los Angeles. It is her power of perception that sets Heller leagues above the norm; in Everything You Know, her debut novel, Heller uncannily captures the voice and frame of reference of her middle-aged male protagonist. The result is an impressive, addictive page-turner filled with on-target, fresh--albeit devastatingly cynical--observations about the world we know. While the novel's premise could easily lend itself to reckless bouts of sentimentality, Heller succeeds in making it anything but. Adding to her list of accomplishments, Heller recently gave birth to a baby girl, Francesca; in the January 2000 issue of Harper's Bazaar Heller describes her successful post-pregnancy shape-up routine, a departure from her usual writing topic of choice but a great inspiration nonetheless.

In this issue of Bold Type, read an excerpt from Everything You Know and an interview with Zoë Heller.
 
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  Photo of Zoe Heller copyright © Lorian Tamara Elbert

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