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Sometimes in a moment of limbo or confusion, it's advisable to make a list. An inventory of accomplishments, a chart of pros and cons. Lucinda Rosenfeld's first novel takes as its form a list of past boyfriends. Each section finishes the sentence begun in its title, What She Saw... in "Roger Mancuso, or 'The Stink Bomb King of Fifth Grade.'" Later, in college, it's "Humphrey Fung, or 'The Anarchist Feminist.'" The book's shape and humor come from the gathering logic of this catalog, how our heroine is repeatedly fooled by the illusions of lust, always looking for something new, someone who can eclipse the failed romances of the past.
Rosenfeld's protagonist, Phoebe Fine, is a sharp-tongued brainiac with rotten self-esteem. Born and raised in suburban New Jersey, she's the daughter of professional classical musicians, hippie theater types who embarrass their kids; they are always going into geeky raptures on the subject of chamber music or obscure lost arts. Phoebe wishes she could be considered "normal." She wishes she had blond hair and perfect teeth, but instead she's painfully ordinary: in the chapter "Jason Barry Gold, or 'The Varsity Lacrosse Stud'" Rosenfeld riffs expertly on the subject of Phoebe's ordinariness:
That's how ugly she was--ugly by virtue of the fact that she was unmemorable, a slab of alabaster awaiting a sculptor who never arrived, a "nothing burger" if there ever was one. Take her nose: it just kind of ended, and her forehead just kind of began--kind of like the weeks in a year and the years in a life. It was the same with her waist and her hips, and her neck and her shoulders. There was nothing definitive about her. She was just this filet of human flesh--just this blah girl running laps behind the gym until she thought her legs would snap, her heart explode.The search for true love keeps Phoebe in a state of high anxiety. It's a wonder she ever gets any sleep. When the right guy gives her the right kind of attention, she's queen for a day. Alone, without the prospect of a lover, she starves herself, drinks too much, occasionally stares into the mystery of her past. What did she see in those men? What did they see in her? At once erotic and awkward, lightweight and troubling, Rosenfeld's debut possesses a powerful charm. Readers who grew up in the '70s and '80s will recognize the landmarks: Farah Fawcett posters, boring social studies classes explaining glasnost. Rosenfeld's a former New York Post nightlife columnist, and What She Saw... has the quick pace, twittering freshness, and panicked hipness of a club-hopper. Deadpan and stylish, it's a novel whose author is out to prove herself. And prove herself she does, in spades. --Emily White --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Both breaking up and growing up are hard to do, learns Phoebe Fine, the protagonist of Rosenfeld's engaging, nostalgic and sometimes frustrating first novel. Each chapter is devoted to a man who has captured Phoebe's attention, affection and occasionally her heart, between the ages of 10 and 25, starting with "Robert Mancuso, or 'The Stink Bomb King of Fifth Grade.'" Young Phoebe, the intellectuallyAif not sociallyAprecocious daughter of two professional classical musicians, is sassy and sympathetic in the amusing early chapters. But once she enters college, romance shows its darker sides, and Phoebe's desire to be loved takes its toll on her self-esteem. She develops eating disorders and suffers lapses of judgment in her amorous encounters; she has an affair with a married professor, and succumbs emotionally to a number of cads. "At the age of 20," Rosenfeld writes, "men had become the centerpiece of her life." After graduation, Phoebe moves to New York and dabbles in promiscuity to prove the power of her beauty, only to learn that "being beautiful wasn't nearly enough." Her search for self, fulfillment and true love goes on, though she's far too cynical to find anything but moments of clarity and fleeting bliss. Rosenfeld's style is direct and often witty, and the plot device is intriguing. The reader gets to know Phoebe as she interacts with her love interests; as she tests her mettle, she learns who she is, even if she doesn't quite like who she's become. But it's exasperating to watch Phoebe the wise, funny girl grows into Phoebe the insecure woman who mistrusts her own heart. First serial to the New Yorker. (Sept.) WINTER RANGE Claire Davis. Picador USA, $23 (272p) ISBN 0-312-26140-3 ~ The New West is the setting for an old-fashioned power struggle in Davis's entrancing debut. Sheriff Ike Parsons, 42 and married to fiery redhead Pattiann, patiently patrols a small Montana town whose cattle outnumber its residents. Pattiann, who always loved the ranching life, was reluctant to settle into her role as a townie's wife, and is bitter over her father's decision to pass on the family ranch to her younger brother. It seems a modern Western woman is powerless, except in the sexual realm, which Pattiann discovered as a rebellious, promiscuous teen. Chas Stubblefield was one of the many boys she drunkenly coupled with in her youth, and 16 years later, when Chas comes to her for sympathy, she fools herself into thinking that she and the down-and-out rancher might still strike sparks. A lonely bachelor, Chas lacks business savvy, and can't afford enough feed for his livestock during a particularly harsh winter. Compassionate (but ignorant of Chas's past with Pattiann), Ike offers to help Chas, fully expecting the stubborn, explosive man to swallow his pride. Chas's situation is indeed horrifying: his cattle are already dead or starving, and bankrupt Chas lives off the meat. Ike conceives a plan to mercy-kill the surviving animals, provoking Chas, now helpless to stop the law from taking everything he owns, to settle the score, even if it means hurting the woman he loves. Crisp details establish place and characters with authoritative clarity. As the characterization deepens, so do the suspense and the reader's empathy for decent people trapped by human flaws and fate. The narrative, moving surefootedly toward its denouement, raises serious questions about the law, love and ethics in a tough rural community. With prose as crystalline and clean as snow on the Montana prairie, Davis establishes herself as a writer to watch. Author tour. (Sept.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
What she saw was very interesting but I had some issues with the ending.Published 2 months ago by Kaylee Rudolph
Loved this book. I felt like I really connected with the characters and author. Great read for someone in their mid 20's.Published 8 months ago by Stephanie
I rather liked the first two-thirds or so of this. Once she graduated from college and her life became messier it sort of wandered off.Published 13 months ago by P. Bolton
I waited 285 pages for this girl to have some kind of revaluation, and it ended up being 285 pages of a woman lowering her standards to please men. Read morePublished 15 months ago by Laura Carroll
Reminded me a LOT of Chelsea Handler's "My Horizontal Life", without the funny. I read the first couple of chapters and kept hoping that the book would get better, but it... Read morePublished on September 24, 2013 by Cara N. Snyder
This book is super boring. I never found myself engaging with the characters at all. I really wouldn't recommend it.Published on August 22, 2013 by Megan
The book was alright. I appreciated the weird men she attracted but it just ended suddenly. Her friends were a little funnier than she was.Published on July 16, 2013 by Megan Nicole
I liked Lucinda Rosenfeld's writing, but I found the female protagonist very frustrating. Phoebe's character development didn't seem to go very far and I found it very difficult to... Read morePublished on July 12, 2013 by Amazon Customer
This book was very well written. A very real perspective of life and the journeys through love and lust. A novel that everyone can relate to at some point or another. Read morePublished on July 10, 2013 by Lakellh