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4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 4.00 (28,813 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Wendy Wasserstein Narrator: Cynthia Nixon Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Abridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: April 2006 ISBN: 9780739333679
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From the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and author of the essay collection Shiksa Goddess (“Utterly delicious”—Judith Thurman), 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.

As Elements of Style opens out, we see a madcap mosaic of the social lives and mores of twenty-first century Manhattan—of romance, work, family, and friendship. Satiric, fierce, touching—and deliciously Wasserstein.

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Quotes & Awards

  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Suju | 2/20/2014

    " I had this book as a kid and I'd almost forgotten about it, but I'm glad I took the time to read it again. It is old fashioned in some ways, but on the other hand, the guidelines it gives for writing still hold and as a reference for grammatical terms and improper word usage, it's invaluable. Not exactly an exciting read, but a worthwhile one. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Jeanne | 2/18/2014

    " I had issues continuing to read this handbook. Lost my interest a few times. It was informative but not overly exciting. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Marc | 2/2/2014

    " I should probably read this every 6 months or so, just to remind myself of all of my crappy habits. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Drew | 1/25/2014

    " Small enough to carry around. Concise and informative. Read and re-read. Obviously, I need to read it a couple more times.... "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Amanda LaPera | 1/21/2014

    " A must-have for any writer. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Deanne Dumo | 1/14/2014

    " Read this in one sitting tonight. Also reread McCloskey's Economical Writing. Thesis writing to occupy me for the whole month. Hope these writing references'll help. :) "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Justin | 1/4/2014

    " Useful, if a bit ossified in places. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Walter | 1/2/2014

    " Do you want to be writer? Do you want to write well? Read this. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ware | 12/20/2013

    " The Elements of Style is the Bible for those engaged in written expression for a living. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Dinah | 12/19/2013

    " Every time I read this book, my writing gets a little bit tighter. I especially love the sections on semicolons and imprecise modifiers, which verge on philosophical. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Karrel Buck | 12/10/2013

    " Can't live with out it & write purty "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Ryan L Blacketter | 12/10/2013

    " Reading this book is a true thrill. It's a swoon, every time. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Olga Hebert | 12/5/2013

    " The Elements of Style (Strunk and White) is a must on the shelf of any one who writes. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Aneesa | 8/7/2013

    " I recommend reading it cover-to-cover. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Tim | 5/3/2013

    " I can't wait for the movie. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Meghan | 3/22/2013

    " A must for anyone who writes anything. Which is everybody. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Elizabeth Brashear | 1/16/2013

    " Best grammar book I've ever read: short and two the point. It even manages to be interesting! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Spencer | 1/8/2013

    " Good exercise to write with it at my side "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Josiah | 1/7/2013

    " This succinct little book may be the best thing you can read to improve your writing. Read it! "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 KyneWynn | 10/19/2011

    " This may be an oldie, but it still has valuable insights for writers. I turn to it often in my work. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Cindy | 10/12/2011

    " This book is a must-have for every English teacher, professor, student, and writer. Strunk's terse writing manual maybe compact in size, but full of helpful writing advice that includes pithy examples to illustrate each error and solution. The ONLY writing book you'll ever need. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Michael Scott | 8/17/2011

    " No writer, serious about about his or her work, can live without it. "

  • 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. "

  • 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. "

  • 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

Cynthia Nixon is an actress best known for her role in the popular television series Sex and the City. She has received two Screen Actors Guild Awards, two Emmy Awards, a Tony Award, and A Grammy Award. Nixon lives with her wife and three children.