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Lifelong best friends Margaret and Letty are in their mid-30s. Margaret has just quit her teaching job to write a novel in Manhattan; Letty, her husband, and her four children are enjoying their first taste of worldly success in Los Angeles. Margaret soon discovers that writing is not as easy as it looks, and Letty finds herself financially over her head in the one-upmanship of L.A. living. Reading Letty's hilarious e-mails, Margaret realizes that a great story is unfolding right in front of her, and she begins a new novel based on her friend's travails. Hungry for more drama in her novel, she pushes Letty deeper and deeper into debt. Christina Schwartz's diabolical All Is Vanity sends up so many different things, you need a list to keep track of them all. Taking a drubbing are: the pretensions of would-be writers ("How many people believe they have a novel fully formed in the backs of their brains ... and are convinced if only they could manage to tear themselves away from much more important work, they would just 'write it up'?"); the consumerist frenzy of L.A. (Letty's realtor tells her that her yard "could be 'emotional' with the right landscaping'"); and, of course, the uses and abuses of female friendship. Schwartz, author of the bestseller Drowning Ruth, draws us in with farce, then changes course and gives us a bittersweet indictment of personal ambition. In the process, she shows herself as a writer both compassionate and hilariously cruel--no mean trick. --Claire Dederer --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
The die was cast for Margaret and Letty back when they were childhood friends, in Pasadena, Calif. "Even in our games, she was always Robin to my Batman, Watson to my Holmes, Boswell to my Johnson," the grown-up Margaret muses in the East Village, where she now lives with her husband, Ted. Margaret has decided to quit teaching English to rich kids and write a meaningful novel. The trouble is, she doesn't have a plot. She strains to invent a hero, Robert Martin, who interminably makes breakfast while remembering Vietnam. But it is more fun to use her computer to exchange e-mails with Letty, a devoted mom whose world is turned upside down when her husband, Michael, lands a big-deal museum job in L.A. and the couple begin spending beyond their means. A while after the reader has figured out that Margaret would rather script Letty's life than Robert's, Margaret gloms onto the weird equation. The deeper Letty sinks into debt and degradation, the better the chances that Margaret can write a bestseller about her and make enough money to save them both. Exit Robert, enter Lexie, based on the Lettie whom Margaret manipulates electronically while feigning a best friend's concern. Schwarz (Drowning Ruth) has a wicked eye for human foibles. Ted's relentless accountancy (he records the purchase of Tic-Tacs), successful writer Sally Sternforth's insufferable ego, the cavalier ways of literary agent Heather Mendelson Blake, Michael's blind ambition: Schwarz nails them all. As funny as it is cruel, the novel sweeps you along on its fast-track slide to hell. While some readers may cavil at a morality play without redemption, others will respect the no-exit spin on ambition and greed.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
This book was so depressing that it made me want to drop out of university and reconsider ever becoming an English major. Read morePublished on July 18 2006 by Candice
As Margaret, our narrator, ruins several lives in her efforts to get her novel published, it becomes quite clear that All is Vanity would never have earned publication without the... Read morePublished on June 14 2004 by Amazon Customer
This book was so depressing and the main characters were so frustrating (one is an egomaniac, the other becomes a self-destructive idiot). Read morePublished on Feb. 27 2004 by Madrigal
Reading the book was like being forced to live in the minds of two definitive losers...one more boring and insecure than the last. Read morePublished on Jan. 24 2004
I'm so glad I didn't see the big O (Oprah!) on the cover of this one, or I probably wouldn't have picked it up. Instead, I checked it out on a whim at the library. Read morePublished on Nov. 12 2003 by Liora Hess
All is Vanity, by Christina Schwarz (also the author of Drowning Ruth, an Oprah pick), is a story about two life-long female friends. Read morePublished on Nov. 5 2003 by Debra Hamel
After reading "Drowning Ruth" I was very excited to see Christina Schwarz had written a new novel. Read morePublished on May 27 2003