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Glamorous Disasters: A Novel Paperback – Bargain Price, February 13, 2007

3.6 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Schrefer's debut novel about an SAT tutor to the children of Manhattan's elite bears a superficial resemblance to The Nanny Diaries, but his well-plotted morality tale offers no comic relief. Noah is fresh out of Princeton—a brainy 24-year-old who worked his way out of an impoverished, rural Virginia childhood and wants to be a professor—to "make it into a more genteel world." To pay off $80,000 in college loans, Noah, who lives in Harlem, tutors the children of Fifth Avenue families like the Thayers for $395 an hour, regretting the leg up he gives these already advantaged kids. The megamoney manager father and youthful, pediatrician mother are referred to only as "Mr. and Dr. Thayer" throughout. Mr. Thayer is largely absent and Dr. Thayer competes with her 16-year-old daughter, Tuscany, while ghostwriting essays for her 17-year-old druggie lacrosse-playing son, Dylan. When Dylan's scores don't improve despite Noah's best efforts, Dr. Thayer offers Noah a Faustian bargain that would settle his loans at the cost of his scruples. Schrefer (a private tutor himself) confirms what we always suspected about the über-rich, tempering the novel's easy momentum and voyeurism with insightful if plodding class-conscious social critique: "The scale of money looms here, is too large to be comprehended, like geologic time to a human life span." (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

It was bound to happen: a male version of The Nanny Diaries has arrived. Noah is fresh out of Princeton when he gets the coveted job of SAT tutor in glamorous Manhattan. Despite his poor (yet enlightened) rural upbringing, Noah is able to dress the dress and walk the walk of his elite employers, and soon finds himself charged with the extensive task of tutoring Dylan Thayer, a cocky 17-year-old lacrosse-captain socialite, and his waiflike younger sister, Tuscany. Products of extreme privilege, the Thayer children are hardly shining academic stars--Dylan cannot write a complete sentence and Tuscany is preoccupied with her looks. Yet the indomitable Dr. Thayer is so determined to get her son into a reputable university, she tries to bribe Noah into helping. Suddenly thrust into a moral quandary, he has to decide how much of himself he is willing to sacrifice for the Thayer family. Schrefer's clever debut relies a little too heavily on caricatures but nonetheless delivers a gleefully biting and witty story. Emily Cook
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (February 13, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743281683
  • ASIN: B003V1WG70
  • Product Dimensions: 8.4 x 5.5 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,826,147 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By K. G Havemann on August 14, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Before I get into the book itself, I have to get this pet peeve off my mind. Do publishers not use proofreaders anymore? I started tabbing the pages with glaring errors until the book had a ribbon of tabs. If on one page, Noah says his appointment with Dylan isn't until 2:00 pm but on the very next page he announces to the doorman that he's there for his 4 o' clock appointment, something is dreadfully amiss. In another place, Dylan had one week in which to take his test, Two pages later, he had two weeks. Seasons seemed to change literally overnight. Time condensed and then expanded. Truly inexcusable.

But the book itself was quite charming and to those who really know the truth about nouveau Manhattan wealth, absolutely true. Schrefer may exaggerate with poetic license but there is more truth in his tales than the more negative reviewers here realize. SAT tutoring is Big Business among the wealthy overindulged and pampered teens who populate the New York private and semi-private schools and cheating, not by the tutors though, is more rampant than people suspect. The author needs more seasoning to move his story along more briskly but this is a good first novel and I look forward to his next one -- hopefully with a proofreader in tow.
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Format: Hardcover
Eliot's Schrefer's first book is a delightful debut and we hope a hint of more to come. Schrefer's characters are a step above real life, making them more interesting and sharpening the novel's focus on the modern moral dilemma of class conflict and the search for self-discovery. A great and thought provoking read.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Mixed Emotions", about the book and about the review. I would probably give this a 3 1/2, 4 too high, 3 too low, and here is why.

Eliot Schrefer's debut novel does touch on a unique perspective, a poor Ivy League grad tutoring wealthy, spoiled kids on the Upper East Side. I'm curious how exaggerated this book is from his real world experience. I'm reminded of my favorite bartender's statement, "everybody comes from a dysfunctional family". And this book demonstrates dysfunction to the nth degree. High achieving MD mother, financial genius father who is rarely around, a son named Dylan who is dumb as dirt and not interested in getting any smarter, and the nymphet 15 year old daughter who already attends famous NY nightclubs and hooks up with guys 40. Did I mention the massive drug use by teenagers? I'd say that's plenty of material to cover.

The positives of the book is it gives you a look at this very unique life and the variance between his students' existence and his own buried in student loans, supporting family and living in Harlem. This was interesting and fertile ground for a novel.

But the negatives are a very slow style that builds characters over the first 200 pages leaving only 130 pages to resolve issues, satisfy his love life and resolve his roommate's messy role in the novel. Based on this, there is no way this book deserves a 5 star rating. But does it explore a different environment? Absolutely. Does it give the reader input into who the author is and what are his frames of reference? Yes. But please Eliot, next time do it a little quicker with more meat after the character building.
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Format: Hardcover
Just finished Glamorous Disasters after a 2-day power read. Personally being a 'paid human on Park Avenue' much truth is revealed in this novel. New York rich is a world unto itself. This would make a great movie. Love to cast it!
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Format: Hardcover
I saw Schrefer's book covered in a recent USA Today and couldn't resist buying it (next day delivery, thanks Amazon!) Schrefer is gifted in the use of language and vividly paints his characters with clever descriptions of their wealth-inspired weaknesses. As with any novel derived from real events, it's fascinating to wonder how much of the book is real and how much is truly fictionalized. Really doesn't matter, I suppose, as the truth is probably stranger than fiction. I predict more good stuff will spill from fertile brain!
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Format: Hardcover
Schrefer's literary debut is a watershed among the fluffy "chick lit" books that have come to dominate the current book market. I hesitate to call this "chick lit" for three main reasons: 1) It was written by a male author; 2) contrary to chick lit books, it contains actual good writing; 3) and contrary to chick lit books, it is not fluff but rather a mordant look at the morally ambiguous Upper East Side, where successful parents who are exasperated with their academically lackluster kids, will do anything to get them into a good college. As we all know, chick lit could not care less about social critique and Faustian bargains; rather, chick lit concentrates on the purchase of Manolos, who steals a best friend's boyfriend, and the ridiculous catfights that ensue in the Hamptons over spilt martinis.

Schrefer dismisses all of this tired and recycled material and breaches new ground: he concentrates on the strained and even competitive relationships between parents and their children; exposes how SAT tutors are, in a way, mercenaries for the rich to get their kids into the best colleges, while outlining the tacit social rules that divide the rich and the poor in New York.

I like the fact that Schrefer concentrates on the competitive nature of mother-daughter relationships. This is a topic that is all too common in real life but hardly touched upon by writers, except of course by Christina Crawford in Mommie Dearest. When parents, especially mothers of adolescent girls, read the following passage, they will be forced to examine how they really feel about their daughters' youth and vitality.

** "They are not speaking as a mother and daughter-they are rivals. And he realizes that, despite Dr. Thayer's nominal attempts at parental authority, they have always been rivals.
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