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Extended Audio Sample Elements of Style: A Novel Audiobook, by Wendy Wasserstein Click for printable size audiobook cover
3.23 out of 53.23 out of 53.23 out of 53.23 out of 53.23 out of 5 3.23 (40 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Wendy Wasserstein Narrator: Kathe Mazur Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: April 2006 ISBN: 9781415929926
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From the Pulitzer Prize–winning playwright and author of the essay collection Shiksa Goddess, a dazzling debut novel, a comedy about New York’s urban gentry living in a post-9/11 world—the arbiters of fashion and the doyennes of charity balls; about the rich and the nouveau rich(er), the glamorous and the desperate to be.

We meet Francesca Weissman, the Upper East Side pediatrician rated number one by Manhattan magazine, who takes us into the upper strata of privilege and aspiration (she’s originally from Queens with a father in hosiery; life on the fringes of glittering New York is fine with her); Samantha Acton, thoroughbred descendant of the Van Rensselaers and the Carnegies, who defines the social order in the great tradition of Mrs. Astor and Babe Paley; Judy Tremont from Modesto, California, daughter of a cop—her life’s work, her obsession, is New York society and its richest families; Barry Santorini, Republican, moviemaker, winner of twelve Oscars, and his wife, the Italian supermarket heiress and former media rep for Giorgio Armani, and many more.  

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Quotes & Awards

  • Wasserstein had the rare ability to be sardonic and compassionate at once . . . [She] demonstrates, with sly grace, a vulnerability that cuts across class lines.”
  • The New Yorker
  • Quintessential Wendy.”
  • Entertainment Weekly
  • Wasserstein’s book has a wit and a heart.”
  • —Jenny Shank, Rocky Mountain News
  • “Wendy Wasserstein’s smart, funny sensibility bubbles up on almost every page of her first and last novel . . . Observant and sharp . . . Full of the ironic humor she brought to the stage . . . Vividly drawn . . . [Wasserstein’s] one and only novel serves as a poignant reminder of a talented, astute, warm-hearted woman gone too soon.”
  • —Christine Dolen, The Miami Herald
  • With her usual keen ear, Wasserstein pins [her characters] in the pages like gilded butterflies, brilliantly contrasting a society committed to status and surface glitter with the fragility and impermanence of life. . . . [A] wry, clear-sighted book–a final gift this generous, funny woman has left us.”
  • —Marianne Evett, The Cleveland Plain Dealer
  • One can finish this funny, compassionate book with an aching heart.”
  • Bookpage
  • Playwright Wendy Wasserstein’s posthumous debut novel showcases all her comic gifts, and unforgettable Elements of Style.”
  • Vanity Fair
  • A bright social comedy . . . Sleek, entertaining.”
  • —Caryn James, The New York Times Book Review
  • Chick-lit with a chill and a pedigree . . . A blithe, funny feat of escapism and a sobering reminder of the inescapable.”
  • —Janet Maslin, The New York Times
  • At the heart of Wasserstein’s social critique lies the same intriguing paradox Henry James explored: those with old money, sophistication, and polish are attracted ot the raw energy (the vulgarity even) of society’s nakedly aspiring climbers.”
  • —Elizabeth Judd, The Atlantic Monthly
  • Wasserstein peppers her dishy humor with piquant and poignant insights, transcending the chick-lit clichés that Style flirts with. You would expect no less from such a sharp and generous spirit.”
  • —Elysa Gardner, USA Today
  • This beautiful little pink number with its stylish ribbon is just great. It is ‘chick lit’ fiction to end all such; only in Wendy’s case, there is more ‘lit’ to it than in others of the same genre.”
  • —Liz Smith
  • Readers looking for an arch and sexy high-society fantasy with edge will be perfectly satisfied with this tart tale of excess and retribution in the city.”
  • Booklist
  • Pure Wendy! Wendy Wasserstein effortlessly makes the leap from stage to page with a novel that is loving, compassionate, flat-out funny. Wendy loved the word ‘scintillating’ which is the best way to describe her stunning Elements of Style.”
  • —John Guare
  • Bold, nimble and funny to its fingertips,  Elements of Style is a delight, a triumph. A book that no self-respecting New Yorker should be without. Those cursed with the hell of  multiple residences will self-evidently need several copies–and spares, for house-guests.”
  • —Flora Fraser
  • Wasserstein gets the trappings and tribulations (of friendship and of romance) right, making her depiction of the rich and fab trying to connect with one another witty and entertaining.”
  • Publishers Weekly
  • [Wasserstein does] a good job of simultaneously poking fun at high society and evoking the anxiety of maintaining a perfect image, capturing a world that is at once fascinating, appalling, and amusing. . . . A sensuous read . . . Wasserstein’s ironic perspective saves it from being merely decadent. Recommended for popular fiction collections.”
  • Library Journal
  • A tart satire . . . Once again, Wasserstein, who will always be remembered as a woman’s woman and a New Yorker’s New Yorker, proves that humor is the best refuge from life’s sorrows.”
  • Vogue
  • Wasserstein delivers with seductive intimacy . . . Beguiling . . . Amusing and telling with just the right touch of melancholy.”
  • —Sherryl Connelly, Daily News
  • You can hear the raucous laughter, fell the well-honed satiric bite–and sense the well-guarded private tears–throughout Elements of Style, [Wasserstein’s] first, and sadly, her only novel. . . . Think a modern-day Jane Austen observing the socialites who throw benefits for the New York City Ballet, compare notes on pediatricians and private schools, and visit the ghetto only to attend gala parties that require a cutting-edge installation.”
  • —Heidi Weiss, Chicago Sun-Times
  • Her legacy is a cautionary truth, offered with a signature wit that we will miss for a long time to come.”
  • —Julia Glass, More

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Judy | 2/18/2014

    " This was a quick read... it reminds me of a TV series like Sex and the City. I loved Wendy's plays and since this book was published after she died, I wanted to read it. I liked "Frankie" a lot.. and figured she might have been fashioned after Wendy herself. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Ann | 2/16/2014

    " I'm not entirely sure what the author's point was for this book. I guess maybe to show the depravity and shallowness of New York socialites? I'm not sure. It also dealt a lot with uncertainly of life in New York after 9/11. Maybe I should think of this as naturalism? I'll decide someday. This wasn't exactly chick-lit, but it seemed to be a close cousin, and it was entertaining on a long car ride. But I was still confused by many choices the characters made. Two characters randomly began an affair, seemingly without warning since they both seemed fairly happily married. Instead, they seemed to act out of boredom. In fact, that seemed to be the motivation for much of the action. I continue to be drawn to these kinds of books for road trips, but I don't think it would have stood up to a print reading. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Anika | 2/15/2014

    " A nice combo of designer fashions, upper west side, 9/11 drama, infidelity, and redemption. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Amy N. | 2/12/2014

    " I haven't finished it yet but so far it is fantastic! I love Wendy Wasserstein and miss her terribly. The book his hilarious if you are familiar with the private school world or the wealthy Upper East siders in general. If you live in New York City, read this book. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Paul Dinger | 1/19/2014

    " It is the Great Gatesby retold in high new York society with a real sense of humor. Proof positive that Janis Ian is right, and love is only for beauty queens and not ugly ducklings. I couldn't put this down it was so good. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Brenda | 1/12/2014

    " This was so well-written that I had a hard time putting it down, but I shook my head a lot at the characters. They sort of reminded me of Elle's boyfriend Warner in Legally Blonde. Spoiled, manipulative and self-centered. It's an interesting story, though. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Koren | 1/2/2014

    " what happens to the park avenue set after 9/11? "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Stephanie | 1/2/2014

    " Thought-provoking and disturbing...and be warned, it doesn't have a happy ending! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kristina | 12/28/2013

    " Entertaining, laugh out loud satire of the Upper East Side social set. Great summer read. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Lindsay Loughlin | 12/27/2013

    " I like to read these kind of "non-thinking" books every once in a while, but this one was just plain silly - characters were over-the-top and the story was really predictable. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Brianne | 12/21/2013

    " Great book from a great presence in American Theatre. This book is what the extremely poorly written "The Emperor's Children" tried to pattern itself after and failed. Wendy Wasserstein is extremely clever and this, her first and only novel before passing away, is a definite must read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Macie | 12/13/2013

    " such a great book about the lives of women living in the upper class of Manhattan "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Aimee | 12/5/2013

    " read this in less than 24 hours. loved it. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Wesley Paine | 12/5/2013

    " Wickedly funny and desperately sad. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Courtney | 11/26/2013

    " It's like candy, a guilty pleasure. Highly entertaining, satirical view of Upper East Side manhattan social circles. A great light subway read! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kirstin | 11/12/2013

    " Loved this book! Read for acting class...and worked on performing one of the characters. This book really reminded me of my years living in New York. Also very "Housewives of NYC" if you like that tv show...this is sort of a fictional novel that would feel similar to that. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Bev | 8/30/2013

    " Listened to this one on tape a while back, not too long after Wasserstein's death. She died way too young! Not up to the quality of her plays, but not as terrible as some people here have indicated, either. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Billye | 8/24/2013

    " not my usual choice, but a nice change of pace "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Erin | 11/22/2012

    " not overly exciting - but it was interesting to learn about the lives of the elite in New York City - a story that proves money does not buy happiness "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Lea | 10/25/2012

    " Halfway through this book I thought, "I really want to read all of Wasserstein's books" and then remembered that this will be her only novel. Brilliant writing, hilarious characters, and surprisingly touching in the end. The 9-11 references are a little heavy-handed but that was the only real fault. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Amy Pouliot | 5/21/2012

    " another one i got on cd. i secretly love chic-lit, although i suppose it isn't a secret any longer, and this book really hit the spot. plus i travel at least two hours back and forth from work daily and this kept me entertained when normally i'd be yelling and swearing at cars. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Monica | 5/10/2012

    " I was really enjoying this book, but sadly I lost it, so I need to go buy it again! "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Anastasia | 4/30/2012

    " This was boring and didn't seem to have a discernible plot. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kelley | 4/22/2012

    " a solid chick-lit read based in NYC "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Sarah Hovis | 1/30/2012

    " Very entertaining and good "light" read. Very gossipy. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Katherine Thompson | 1/3/2012

    " Just don't. I read this only to avoid talking to a lecherous man sitting beside me on a long flight. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jan Clayton | 11/17/2011

    " There are better books, I think, that discuss this same topic; however, when this was written it was the best thing out there. It does a pretty good job, but it is also a bit outdated now. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 April | 10/4/2011

    " Light-reading. Witty, girly, but still well written! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Kirstin | 4/26/2011

    " Loved this book! Read for acting class...and worked on performing one of the characters. This book really reminded me of my years living in New York. Also very "Housewives of NYC" if you like that tv show...this is sort of a fictional novel that would feel similar to that. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Liz | 4/26/2011

    " A classic. This is what to read when you tire of "fashionistas" and "on-trend" and anything affiliated with Kardashians. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jan | 1/12/2011

    " There are better books, I think, that discuss this same topic; however, when this was written it was the best thing out there. It does a pretty good job, but it is also a bit outdated now. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Sarah | 1/9/2011

    " I don't know. It was entertaining enough, good light reading for a flight. But the ending was dissatisfying to me. Rather random with very little resolution. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Wesley | 1/1/2011

    " Wickedly funny and desperately sad. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Stephanie | 11/30/2010

    " Thought-provoking and disturbing...and be warned, it doesn't have a happy ending! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jsusswein | 7/13/2010

    " Too much like reading the gossip pages -she is perceptive and funny, but I didn't love this. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Jamie | 6/1/2010

    " I didn't love it while reading it - I think it's because the characters are not entirely likeable. But the characters stuck with me for awhile. Interesting insight into NYC east side lifestyle. Not a very appealing one - to me anyway. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Nancy | 3/30/2010

    " I checked out this audio-book from the library. I was in a hurry and just grabbed the first thing I hadn't heard or read. The reader was good. The subject matter was interesting. Rich New York socialites aren't really my cup of tea, but the characters were interesting. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Bev | 2/7/2010

    " Listened to this one on tape a while back, not too long after Wasserstein's death. She died way too young! Not up to the quality of her plays, but not as terrible as some people here have indicated, either. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Julie | 1/17/2010

    " This is a book focused on the wealthy in NYC who are slaves to getting ahead. I didn't like a single character in the novel. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 heather | 12/21/2009

    " a diverting read because wasserstein's pacing and characters are excellent. the end was too tidy (although not unrealistic) and i ultimately found this somewhat unsatisfying. "

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About the Narrator

Kathe Mazur has narrated many audiobooks, winning the prestigious Audie Award for best narration in 2014, being named a finalist for the Audie Award in 2013 and 2015, and winning seven AudioFile Earphones Awards. As an actress, she can be seen as DDA Hobbs on The Closer and in the upcoming Major Crimes. She has worked extensively in film, theater, and television, including appearances on Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice, House, Brothers and Sisters, Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior, ER, Monk, and many others.