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The Fame Lunches: On Wounded Icons, Money, Sex, the Brontës, and the Importance of Handbags Hardcover – September 2, 2014

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Precise, pointed. . . . Together, these essays . . . showcase a fearless intelligence. . . . Merkin addresses more complicated issues, or at least ones calling for either honest self-examination or subtlety. . . . These are stunning works, enough to hold us for at least another decade. (Clea Simon, The Boston Globe)

[Merkin] writes like an angel, whatever the subject. (Editor's Choice, Buffalo News)

Unfailingly intelligent. (Heller McAlprin, NPR)

Outstanding . . . one of our best narrative nonfiction writers. Merkin's voice is secular and modern and yet filled with some sort of ancient wisdom, and coupled with intellectual and emotional honesty, while maintaining a pureness of heart. That is no easy feat. (Elaine Margolin, Jewish Journal)

A diverse array of work . . . The keenly perceptive Merkin adroitly tackles high and low culture . . . refreshingly candid . . . . No matter what topic, readers will be treated to mesmerizing prose, lively wit, and penetrating analysis; the collection is a joy to read. (Publishers Weekly (starred, boxed review))

An eclectic collection of pieces, all of which feature her unique style and voice . . . . Merkin's style is inevitably exploratory--these are 'essays' in the word's literal sense. Like Montaigne, she writes to figure something out, not because she's already figured it out . . . Essays that go down like candy but nourish like health food. (Kirkus Reviews)

Fearless, impolitic, honest, darkly observant, these superb essays tell all of our secrets. (Katie Roiphe)

Daphne Merkin is one of the smartest and best readers I know--not only of books (about which she writes peerlessly) but of people and their preoccupations. She is fiercely honest, even when she turns her unflinching eye on herself, and has such range and such an uncanny ability to draw connections that her essays leave you enlightened about things you never knew you cared about. (Chip McGrath)

Daphne Merkin's voice is unmistakable in its wit and audacity and undertone of melancholy. The essay form is a perfect medium for her delicious arias. (Janet Malcolm)

Daphne Merkin puts the mark of her distinctive style--intellectual and literary--on everything she writes about, from Kabbalah to camp. This is the juiciest collection of cultural criticism to come along in quite a while and establishes her as a unique and major essayist. (Phyllis Rose)

The Fame Lunches is nothing short of a great read. It's filled with unexpected insights into the Complexity, Sorrow, and Beauty of my favorite subject: Women. Everything Daphne Merkin touches glows in the light of her shining talent. (Diane Keaton)

Daphne Merkin's sparkling and unreasonably informed essays are about fame, yes, and lunches, somewhat. Above all, they are strikingly original takes on the human condition. (Woody Allen)

The Fame Lunches is a delicious and delightful feast. What a pleasure to read a writer who can use language with joy and inventiveness. Daphne Merkin has taken the essay form back to its roots in Michel Montaigne, Joseph Addison, Richard Steele, and Samuel Johnson. Her range is vast, her intellect inspiring. Whether you agree with her conclusions or not, watching her mind work is a thing of beauty. (Erica Jong, author of Seducing the Demon: Writing for My Life)

Everything Daphne Merkin writes is so smart, it shines. (The Washington Post Book World on Daphne Merkin)

One of the few contemporary essayists who have (and deserve) a following. (New York Magazine on Daphne Merkin)

About the Author

Daphne Merkin, a former staff writer for The New Yorker, is a regular contributor to ELLE. Her writing frequently appears in The New York Times, Bookforum, Departures, Travel + Leisure, W, Vogue, and other publications. Merkin has taught writing at the 92nd Street Y, Marymount, and Hunter College. Her previous books include Enchantment, a novel, and Dreaming of Hitler, a collection of essays. She lives in New York City.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; First Edition edition (September 2, 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374140375
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374140373
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.4 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #405,266 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Lucubrator on October 19, 2014
Format: Hardcover
It's been a long time since her last collection. While I've read a number of the essays gathered in this book in several magazines, it is nice to have them, and the ones that got away, in a beautiful hardbound collection. Personally, I love Ms. Merkin's voice--incisive, intelligent, empathetic, self-scrutinizing, and gently mocking. Her range of literary, historical, and psychological knowledge is wide and subtlety conveyed. I find reading her pieces like being in the company of smart, funny, and generous friend. Really enjoyed her profiles of Alice Munro and Diane Keaton, as well as her unflinching and honest takes on money and fame.
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Jesse Kornbluth TOP 1000 REVIEWER on September 17, 2014
Format: Hardcover
Daphne Merkin is frighteningly intelligent. You only have to read a few paragraphs of her writing to know that she’s read, heard and seen everything written, recorded and filmed, and that, for good measure, she has a point of view about her subject that is dramatically different from every other writer. But Daphne Merkin is not only deeply smart, she is deeply troubled. She’s the queen of Too Much Information, though in her case the oversharing is the point.

She was, she tells us, born into a family of casually Orthodox Jews. They Merkins were rich — they lived in a Park Avenue duplex, they had a house staff — but money somehow didn’t seem plentiful. Her father was successful and distant. She could never get close to her mother; young Daphne had a “sense of not having been loved — or, to put it more precisely, responded to in a way that felt like love.” At 5, she began “to be apprehensive about what lay in wait for me.” At 8, she was “wholly unwilling to attend school, out of some combination of fear and separation anxiety.”

But she could write. Lord, could she write. When she was 21, she reviewed a book by Jane Bowles. Woody Allen wrote her a fan letter: “You’re wasting your gifts on reviewing.” They became friends. Many years later, over lunch, she told him she felt more depressed than usual. With that, as she writes in this collection of pieces, the interrogation began:

"How depressed? he immediately wanted to know. Quite depressed, I said. Did I have trouble getting up in the morning? Lots, I answered. Did I ever stay in bed all day? No, I said, but it was often noon before I got out of my nightgown. But of course I continued to write, he said. I answered that I hadn’t written a word in weeks.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By 20thCenturyLtd on September 23, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Merkin has perfect pitch as an observer. A great collection, in the spirit of Mary MCarthy, Dorothy Parker, and Janet Flanner.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Shalom Freedman HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on December 3, 2014
Format: Hardcover
In her preliminary remarks Daphne Merkin tells of her adolescent dream of having long luncheon conversations with famous yet broken inside figures who she would heal and be healed by.In this collection of her essays, and book -reviews she may not achieve the healing but conducts the meetings and makes of them especially interesting and probing encounters. She writes with great intelligence and perception about a whole list of diverse characters Marilyn Monroe Virginia Woolf Alice Munro , Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath John Updike Michael Jackson, Henry Roth Princess Diana .Forty-six pieces in all are in the collection with the literary world and the Hollywood world especially well represented. She writes too very candidly about herself , her lifelong struggle with depression, her own particular struggles within and without her family. The essays are by and large a great pleasure to read, intellectual entertainment at its best.
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Format: Hardcover
Daphne Merkin is an unconventional feminist. It is very late in the evening or very early in the morning, a sleepless night really, and I have just spent this evening, quite comfortably, with her new book. Merkin is, unlike her more theoretical, academic contemporary Judith Butler, imminently readable (is there not a better way to become an unconventional feminist than to be digestible to any audience?), and she never fails to provide thought-provoking insights about gender, culture, and the particular socio-cultural milieu from which she hails.

I've been following Daphne's work for some time now (since reading her film reviews as a child in the "New Yorker") and her progression as an author is marked and consistent, always evolving towards finding the revelatory the seemingly superficial handbag or the unspoken, undocumented exchanges between (famous) sisters. What appears to be, again, superficial and/or anecdotal (the handbag or even her film reviews) takes on gravitas because of lucid prose that expresses true sentiment--not only when considered in relation to her body of work, which moves from ruminations on what it means to be a byproduct of the contemporary American psychiatric state (see her wonderful piece in the "New York Times Magazine" several years back on her battle with depression) to her rebuttal to Susan Sontag's "Notes on Camp."

To riff some more on my seemingly obtuse Judith Butler-Daphne Merkin comparison, we are not really hit over the head once and once more with dense theoretical messages about what it means to be a woman when we read Merkin: we are whisked away by fluid, playful prose into an imaginative but dark reflection on the relationship between gender and contemporary society.
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