takemanhattanThere are a whole series of books that I heard about growing up but was too young to read–books that my mom and her friends read and talked about, books that I saw advertised, joked about on sitcoms and noticed at the bookstore, that may not be great literature, but were incredibly popular and influential in their own ways.

The Shell-Seekers by Rosamund Pilcher, for example, is a book I’ve always been curious about but never have read. Scruples by Judith Krantz was another of those, and I read it last year.

You know, what I like to call ’80s Mom Poolside Reading.

I’m not ashamed to admit it–I thought Scruples was incredibly addictive. I didn’t want to put it down, I thought the sex scenes were pretty hot (plus there were man-on-man ones, so yay!) and I was impressed by how Krantz juggled multiple characters and storylines while keeping the action (and “action”) humming (and “humming”) along quickly. (Plus, there was all the finishing school lessons from the faded French grande dame and the building/marketing of the world’s most powerful boutique…important stuff!) Judith Krantz was 50 when Scruples came out in 1978, and I think she either created or perfected the glossy, sex-and-shopping-and-corporate-takeover-but-most-of-all-romance genre that Danielle Steel would run with later.

Anyway, I’d always heard about I’ll Take Manhattan, even though I’ve never seen the Valerie Bertinelli miniseries made of it, and the book didn’t disappoint. Incredibly readable with lots of well-rounded (at least for the purposes of the plot) characters, the book covers a ton of ground. While it lacks some of the nasty, sharp-edges that made Scruples so amazing, I stayed up all night one night reading it–I had to find out what happened.

Maxi Amberville is the heiress to a publishing empire her father worked his whole life to start, but lives the life of a party girl with no responsibilities other than installing central heating in an ancient Scottish castle during her brief stint as a noblewoman, having unprotected sex with her fiery, hot-but-kinda-abusive Italian ex-husband and pissing her blueblood, former ballerina rich bitch mother, Lily, off.

After the father dies, his bitter younger brother, Cutter (incredibly sexy but evil! Also, like 98% of all the other male characters, a huge-penised total top.), marries Lily and sets about destroying said empire to get revenge for living in his sibling’s shadow. Maxi, with help from her wise-cracking teen daughter Angelica, her two brothers (one older, blind and–according to his eventual movie star girlfriend–with a magic tongue; the other, younger, a gay master martial artist/photog) and a lot of power suits, shoulderpads and her sexual charm, decides to stop him.

She turns Buttons & Bows, an outdated trade magazine, into B&B, the hottest women’s magazine the world’s ever seen. While she’s planning out the dummy (and, she regrets, missing Hill Street Blues in the process), she comes up with some pretty awesome story ideas:

  • “Why Short, Fat Men Are Better In Bed” by Nancy Kissinger
  • “I Was Wrong About Penis Envy: An Unpublished Manuscript” by Sigmund Freud
  • “Why You Must Have Lots Of Chocolate In Your Daily Diet” by Jane Fonda
  • “The Ultimate Love-Hate Relationship: You And Your Hairdresser” by Boy George
  • “Real Men Never Fantasize About Thin Women” by Mikhail Baryshnikov
  • “Let’s Talk Sex: A Monthly Column” by Tom Selleck
  • “The First 25 Things I Adore About Women Over 30” by Warren Beatty
  • “The Best Divorce I’ve Ever Had” by Liz Taylor and/or a Gabor
  • “Queen: The Worst Job In The World” by Prince Philip
  • “The Easy-To-Come-By Joys Of Narcissim” by Madonna

(I would so read this magazine, btw.)

As someone who works at a magazine and is interested in the field, I was really interested in the B&B sections, but sadly, I don’t think any of Maxi’s techniques are going to help me in the real world, unless I somehow morph into a glittery, Dynasty-haired ’80s vixen with a wicked tongue and a trademark blue limousine. (Dream!!)

Krantz keeps it up for over 400 pages: sex; assassination attempts on movie stars, gay sex scandals, murder, and, best of all, a Donald Trump cameo. It’s really fun, pretty sexy and a great way to lose yourself–all the things I’m sure ol’ Krantzy set out to accomplish. I guess that means I will have to check out Scruples II now. (See, the Roman numerals means it’s classy!)

Resilience is a funny thing. Just this morning, I was feeling really, really down and defeated, a feeling I haven’t been able to completely shake for a few weeks now. Everything I do seemed colored by my torpor. In fact, I’d typed up a blog post about the very subject (and my desire to escape take a vacation) this morning, only to erase it before posting. There’s only so much self-pitying I can take, especially from myself!

But, like that Gap swing dancing commercial, somehow your point of view shifts and what seemed so bleak and hopeless now seems exciting and possible. What causes this?

  • A good conversation with Z while picnicking in the park
  • A hot bath and a quiet night in your own apartment
  • A few chapters of Judith Krantz’s I’ll Take Manhattan (long live ’80s-mom-poolside-reading)
  • Most importantly, writing. Shaping sentences and choosing words to find beautiful and unexpected combinations; getting your thoughts down on paper in the pithiest way possible. Fighting the blank page and realizing that, yes, you can win again at something that means more you than anything else in the world.

In the movie Can’t Hardly Wait, each character is introduced by a quick shot of their yearbook picture and senior quote. Jennifer Love Hewitt’s character, Amanda, (who’s undecided about attending college, which has always bothered me) quotes Jewel. (I know, I know…how ’90s!)

I’m not ashamed to admit that I love the quote myself, and although the song (“I’m Sensitive”) is a little cringe-worthy, it ends with the titular quote that never fails to make me feel an emotional rush:

“I’d rather see the world from another angle…”

That’s usually all it takes to feel cheerful or at least brave again.