Combining sly humor with an urban edge, Kate Christensen's In the Drink tells the story of a resolutely clear-eyed young woman who makes a complete mess of her life, and lives to tell the tale.
The novel's heroine is the smart, pretty, underemployed, and single Claudia Steiner, personal secretary to Genevieve del Castellano, a terrifying, glamorous semi-lunatic who has it in for her for reasons she can't even begin to fathom. William, her best friend, considers Claudia his pal, his confidante, his sidekick in matters amatory, which would be fine if she weren't desperately in love with him herself. Further complicating matters is Claudia's old lover John Threadgill, an unpublished epic poet whose marriage to a Romanian stripper named Rima hasn't kept him from trying to seduce Claudia at every opportunity.
Claudia came to New York City fresh out of college, buoyed along by her dream of becoming a journalist. But her starry-eyed notion of Claudia Steiner, Reporter on the Beat, quickly vanished into the ozone when she couldn't muster the requisite hard-bitten, white-hot urgency, the chain-smoking, the yelling, and the cutthroat story-mongering. Now, at the age of twenty-nine, she finds herself adrift in the city, careening dangerously from catastrophe to catastrophe. Desperately trying to keep her head above water, Claudia has little to rely on but a wry sense of humor, a keen appreciation of the medicinal properties of whiskey, and something more subtle--a persistent little flame of belief in herself, which makes a happy ending seem possible even in this most unforgiving of cities.
Hilarious, compassionate, and keenly observed, In the Drink is the enormously entertaining debut of a startlingly talented young writer.
BONUS: This edition includes an excerpt from Kate Christensen's Blue Plate Special.
The smart, urban and aimless have found their heroine in this charmingly original debut novel. Claudia Steiner is a funny, pretty, cynical 29-year-old who has "failed to connect" and who's disillusioned with her spotty employment history and restless, rootless existence. Having long ago lost the journalistic ambition that brought her to Manhattan, Claudia lives in a hole of an apartment on the Upper West Side. She can't pay her rent or bills and spends all her money on cabs, take-out food and nights of drinking at East Village clubs. Her bleak love life consists of drunken one-night stands, a passionate but doomed relationship with a married poet and a consuming but seemingly unrequited love for her dearest friend, William. Claudia works as a ghostwriter (and personal secretary) to 70-something Jackie del Castellano, bestselling author and socialite, a "semi-lunatic" spitfire whose outrageous mistreatment of Claudia borders on the sadistic (yet perversely hilarious). Claudia's miserable existence approaches its nadir when she makes some endearingly horrific blunders at work and gets fired. "A persistent little flame of self" and a wonderfully ironic sense of humor--including a kind of wry pride in her capacity for boozing--pull her through, however. Claudia comes to realize that the people to whom she's enviously compared herself aren't what they appear to be: Jackie is not as invincible as she seems, and even William, her idealized romantic hero, has his dark side. The discovery of compassion and connection in the midst of Claudia's chaotic and confusing life encourages her to redefine what she wants and what it means to be an adult. Though often poignant, her memorable story never cloys and is enlivened with refreshingly unsentimental humor and a sparkling ensemble of skillfully drawn contemporary urban characters.