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Written by Laura ZigmanAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Laura Zigman



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On Sale: December 18, 2007
Pages: 224 | ISBN: 978-0-307-42620-8
Published by : Anchor Knopf

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Read by Ilana Levine
On Sale: May 07, 2002
ISBN: 978-0-7393-0143-2
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Synopsis|Excerpt

Synopsis

Elise meets Donald on a flight to Washington, D.C., where he teaches and she edits self-help books. He is dreamy: 6’6” with unflinching green eyes and a proclivity for speaking frankly. Incredibly, they fall in love, get engaged, and start discussing wedding invitations.

And then Elise meets her—Adrienne—Donald’s stunning, leggy ex-fiancée. Adrienne is newly single and planning a move to D.C. Cleavage-baring, half-French, and with a degree from Yale, she seduces men with one flick of her hair. Worst of all, she and Donald have remained “good friends” since they broke up. Convinced that Adrienne is out to win Donald back, Elise begins stalking both of them obsessively . . . and starts adding up clues to what looks like a brazen affair.

Excerpt

1

We were, as it happened, Donald and I, deciding that evening on how we would have our wedding invitations printed--Engraving? Thermography? Lithography?--when Adrienne, Donald's ex-fiancée, called to share her good news: she was leaving New York to accept a job in Washington, where we lived, just after the first of the year.

It was late November.

We were planning an April wedding.

And until that instant when the phone rang and Donald ran to the Caller ID box by the desk and froze, I had been planning–perhaps naively, perhaps idiotically–on taking the high road when it came to Adrienne and her relentless pursuit of friendship with Donald. I had vowed, without any true understanding of just how deep-rooted and, well, virulent, my particular strain of jealousy was, I see now, to put an end to my obsession. My suspicion. My frenzied insecurity. I had vowed, as they say, at long last, to get a grip.

On my demons.

On my nemesis.

On her.

Clearly this was wishful thinking on my part; a momentary lapse of delusional optimism (quite common, I'd read, with most brides-to-be), for nothing of the sort–maturity, acceptance, suffering in silence–was in the cards.

Especially now that she–Adrienne–would be living, as it were, in our backyard.

We had been staring intently at three pieces of Crane's Ecruwhite Kid Finish stationery stock that I'd managed to sneak out of Neiman Marcus's sample book as "souvenirs"–the salesman, stout, balding, moist, had excused himself to take a phone call from an important customer: "And will this be a surprise celebration for the Chief Justice?" (This was, after all, Washington.) The three sample invitations were identical except for the method of printing (which is why I had lifted them: to better understand the hefty price differential) and the surely fictional inviters and betrotheds (Mr. and Mrs. Henry Stewart Evans request the honour of your presence at the marriage of their daughter Katherine Leigh to Mr. Brian Charles Jamison. . . . Mr. and Mrs. Wendell Fields, III, request the honour of your presence at the marriage of their daughter Tiffany Jane to Mr. Phinneas Welch. . . . Our joy will be more complete if you will share in the marriage of our daughter Blah blah blah to Mr. Blah blah blah.). Running our fingers slowly and carefully over the print on each card; holding them up to the light; sniffing them, even (my suggestion), yielded nothing. We were failures in the study and appreciation of fine printing techniques.

"Okay, I give up," Donald said, throwing the invitation he was holding down onto the table and leaning back in his chair until its joints creaked ominously. "Which is which?"

"Beats me." Neiman's had, I explained, not been kind enough to reward my little theft by providing me the answers on the back of each like a set of helpful flash cards.

Donald brought his chair abruptly forward, sat upright, and yawned passionately. He stretched his arms across the table, pushing the sample invitations aside as he did, and reached for my hands.

"Honey?" he said languidly.

"What?" I said flatly.

"May I speak frankly?"

"Must you?"

Had he ever spoken any other way? Couldn't we, just once, I wondered, get through some task (eating dinner, washing dishes, having sex) without his need to speak frankly?

"Fine. Speak," I said, waving my hand, giving up. Relieved now to have license to speak his mind (a technicality: he spoke his mind quite freely without my permission, as you'll see), he smiled broadly, then brought his shoulders up in a fake cringe, as if to indicate that he felt just terrible about what he was going to say–even though, I knew, he didn't.

"I'm bored," he said, finally, his confession a guilty pleasure (he was a true Catholic, through and through). "I have to be honest, I'm having a hard time caring"–broad smile, shoulders up, fake cringe–"about how the invitations get printed. I mean, why are we doing this?"

I couldn't have been more bored myself, but I wouldn't have admitted it for the world. Instead, I let my mouth sag slightly into a sad pout.

"Doing what?" I asked. "Getting married or discussing the invitations?"

The phone rang.

"Discussing the invitations, of course," he said. He reached to give my hands a reassuring little squeeze but I withheld them for effect. "I want to get married."

The phone rang again.

"Because." I was about to explain how costly engraving was compared to the other options and how since we couldn't tell the difference anyway, we could, with a completely clear conscience, opt for the cheapest method of the three–lithography–but I was too distracted by the third ring of the telephone. On the beginning of the fourth ring he rose from the dining room table where we'd been sitting, took three steps over to the desk, leaned across it, turned back to look at me, and cringed–this time for real.

"It's Adrienne."


From the Hardcover edition.
Laura Zigman|Author Q&A

About Laura Zigman

Laura Zigman - Her

Photo © Marion Ettlinger

Laura Zigman is the author of Animal Husbandry and Dating Big Bird. She spent ten years working in book publishing in New York. Her pieces have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post, and USA Today. She now lives outside Boston.

Author Q&A

A conversation with Laura Zigman, author of Her

Q: Her, like your previous novels, takes a very funny approach to the common (and painful) lack of trust between men and women. How did you get the idea for the new novel?

A:
The idea came from the shock of meeting my fiancé's ex for the first time. She was very attractive -- hideously, grotesquely attractive, in fact. The kind of attractive where you want to shoot yourself and die. Of course, the huge disparity between her extreme attractiveness and my extreme unattractiveness on the day we met may have had something to do with the fact that she was wearing a push-up bra and I was wearing a parka.

After telling and retelling this story of the push-up-bra-parka meeting a hundred times and seeing the horror in people's faces (especially women's faces), I knew that I was on to something. Everyone has a story about the one ex in their spouse's past that completely unhinges them.

Q: Why is it that people -- men and women alike -- are so unnerved by beauty. Can't we get past this?

A:
You can blame it on that nebulous enemy -- the mass media -- but the truth is people are naturally obsessed with beauty, sex, comparative attractiveness. What's so unnerving and insecurity-provoking I think, is not simply physical perfection (the perfection, for instance, of the cleavage I witnessed that day when I met my fiancé's ex), but by the mysteries and vagueries of attraction. Some people just have "it" -- whatever "it" is (sex appeal, basically). And some people don't.

Q: Do you think women are more susceptible than men to feeling jealous?

A:
Yes. In the obsessively-consumed-with deeply-neurotic non-violent-stalking arena there is absolutely no comparison: women beat men, hands down.

Q: No one in Her acts heroically. Donald knows his insensitive doting on his ex unnerves Elise; Elise clearly can't give her future husband the benefit of the doubt; Elise's friends abandon her when she needs them most; and the trouble-causing ex plays the card she knows she holds and makes everyone crazy. Who's the good guy here?

A:
That's kind of the point, I guess. That women aren't saints, and men aren't the devil. Which isn't to say that men are saints and women are the devil. We're all capable of bad behavior in relationships.

Q: Isn't the character of Fran based on a real person in Washington, D.C.? Is she really that mean? And that funny?

A:
"Fran" is actually Nancy Pearlstein, a good friend of mine in Washington who has an unbelievably amazing (and needless to say, expensive) store called "Relish." Back before I had a baby, when I was single, and I still had time to dress decently and groom myself regularly, I did quite a bit of shopping at her store. But then I stopped. Not just because nothing in her store fit me anymore and I wouldn't have been able to afford it anyway, but because if she thinks you’re not doing justice to her clothes, she’ll let you have it. I couldn't take the berating anymore. I mean, sometimes the truth hurts too much.

Q: So now that you've moved from DC to Boston, do you have a new fashion diva to go to in time of need? (Or are you still stealing away to New York for emergencies?)

A:
Since, as Nancy would say, "I go nowhere and do nothing," my need for nice clothes has been dramatically reduced. That said, there is an amazing store right here in Newton where I live and in Cambridge, called "Tess." It's just like Nancy's store, only Tess isn't as mean.

Q: Your books are very funny. How difficult is it, writing comedy?

A:
It takes a long time to trust your voice, to talk yourself into the idea that you know what you are doing. This is best accomplished, I think, by tricking yourself: you tell yourself what a genius you are even though, deep down, you know you're a giant loser. The problem is, you don't want to start thinking you're too great, because then you get too comfortable; too soft. You get tone deaf and you stop being able to tell when what you're writing is really, really bad.

Q: What was it like to see your first novel, Animal Husbandry, made into a film? Were you happy with the movie?

A:
It was a complete thrill. Especially thrilling was the fact that they put Ashley Judd's head on my body for the movie posters (she has kind of a weight problem, you know; I was glad to help out). And yes, I was very happy with the movie. That's not to say, of course, that there weren't things I would have changed or done differently. Like, for starters, I probably would have kept the original title, Animal Husbandry, instead of changing it to something like, Someone Like You. My "readers" (both of them -- my parents) disliked that the most. And the fact that it wasn't fair to have an actress as unattractive and homely (and chubby) as Ashley Judd playing me. But I'm certainly not complaining. People have far worse problems than not liking every single thing about the movie adaptation of their novel, right?

Q: Her is being made into a movie as well, right?

A:
I hope so. Julia Roberts’ production company, Shoelace Productions, bought it for Revolution Studios, and Wendy Wasserstein is writing the screen adaptation. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Q: Tell us a little about your days in book publishing.

A:
I've been advised by my legal counsel and psychiatric professionals not to discuss that period of my life without supervision and sedation.

Q: Was being a book publicist really so awful? It seems sort of sexy, or at least like it would provide good cocktail conversation.

A:
I would say if crawling around on your hands and knees on your office floor until two in the morning stuffing Jiffy Bags when you're thirty-three sounds sexy, then, well, publishing is a very, very, very sexy business.

Q: What's next?

A:
It depends. If this book doesn't work, I might be begging Knopf for my old job back....


From the Hardcover edition.

Praise

Praise

“Delightfully frothy. . . . It’s a fun ride.” —Chicago Tribune

“[Zigman] has produced another book of the moment. . . . A fun read.” —New York Daily News

“This is one rampaging hoot of a book, likely to strike a resounding chord. . . . The fun here is in the details.” —The Seattle Times

Her is as addicting as Zigman’s previous work. . . Sharp, hilarious.” —Bookpage

“A howl. . . . As scary as it is funny.” —USA Today

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