Caitlin Macy's debut novel The Fundamentals of Play was heralded as a Gatsbyesque examination of love and class in Manhattan. Now, in her sophisticated and provocative story collection Spoiled, Macy turns her unsparing eye on affluent and educated women who nevertheless struggle to keep their footing in their relationships and life.
In "Annabel's Mother," a young woman does a good deed for her nanny, only to have it go horribly wrong. "Bait and Switch" chronicles a lifelong rivalry between two sisters. A self-made woman struggles to gain the upper hand with her comically self-assured cleaning woman in "The Red Coat." And in "Taroudant," a newly married woman desperate for authentic experience makes a rash decision to leave the grounds of her Moroccan luxury hotel.
Macy's voice is as straightforward as it is original in these stories, and her characters deftly nuanced. Full of surprising, sometimes shocking insights and simmering with outrage, compassion, and humor, Spoiled is a remarkable collection from a boldly talented writer.
After examining the lives of privileged 20-somethings in The Fundamentals of Play, Macy sets her sights a decade older, and her new short story collection prominently features the concerns of women of leisure and the tension between classes. In "Eden's Gate," an up-and-coming starlet and her old-money boyfriend share a tense dinner; in "Annabel's Mother," Gramercy Park keyholders gossip. The title story follows adolescent Leigh as she muddles through a horseback riding competition and butts heads with her overbearing riding instructor. The two sisters in "Bait and Switch" find themselves in an awkward situation while spending a week together in an Italian beach house. While the stories are individually rewarding and Macy is especially adept at slyly pointing out the absurdities inherent in a social set where renting a summerhouse is a source of shame, the similarities between her characters and the preponderance of fish-out-of-water situations make the collection seem repetitive and narrow. (Mar.)
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1 . The WORST
Posted January 08, 2011 by aw , DallasI was quite excited to read this book... It sounded like it would be something I would really enjoy. The first two stories were so boring and so pointless and when the third story started off the same way I just could not force myself to suffer through it! It takes a LOT for me to think a book is so bad that I do not finish reading it. I am putting this book down! So boring!!!! So pointless!!! I can't believe anyone liked it!
March 02, 2009
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Excerpt from Spoiled by Caitlin Macy
Chapter 1 Christie When you met Christie for the first time, it took only minutes to learn that she was from Greenwich, Connecticut, but months could go by before you got another solid fact out of her. After a couple of years in New York, she realized that she had to give people a little more information to stop them from digging, so once she’d mentioned Greenwich she would quickly add that she’d gone to “the high school,” meaning the public one. The first time she said this, you’d find her forthrightness refreshing—disarming, even, in the midst of so many pretenders. You’d be prompted, perhaps, to admit something about yourself—the fact that you were doing Jenny Craig, for instance, and had to sneak the packaged food into your office microwave when no one was paying attention. But then you’d overhear Christie making the same confession to someone else, and it would lose its charm. It was just Fact No. 2, which, added to Fact No. 1—her childhood in Greenwich —represented the sum total of what could be stated about Christie Thorn’s background, about her entire life before college and New York, where I’d met her. Plus, you couldn’t help being suspicious of her motives in revealing Fact No. 2. If, at a party, a group of people were standing around, sharing a corner of a room, and someone made an opening bid— mentioning Hotchkiss or St. George’s, say—Christie would always pointedly interject, “Oh, I wouldn’t know. I went to public school. Greenwich High. That’s right—I was a good old suburban kid.” Of course, Christie and the person who had mentioned boarding school were doing the same thing—preemptively defending themselves against attack—yet rightly or wrongly you were tempted to give the Hotchkiss guy a free pass. With him you could figure that his parents had divorced badly, or his mother was an alcoholic, or his brother had committed suicide (or perhaps it really had been an accidental overdose), or that in keeping with the family tradition Dad had gone crazy and now spent his days in slippers and a robe shooting intricate, archaic forms of pool. On account of one or more of these family problems, the young man felt insecure about himself as an individual, and so, in moments of social anxiety, he mentioned boarding school a little too early, and a little unnaturally, to shore up his resolve. Still, whatever his problem, whatever the big bad family secret, it was just the slightly burned edge on a cake that everyone still wanted to eat. How bad could those family problems really be, you’d asked yourself more than once, if, at the same time, you had the house in Edgartown? How bad—if you had the gray shingles, the weathered shutters, the slanting attic roof, the iron bedstead, the needlepoint pillow on the wicker settee proclaiming “A woman’s place is on the tennis court!” the batterie de cuisine of lobster pots and potato mashers from the forties, and the octagonal kitchen window, through which you could glimpse the dunes and smell the salt air—could anything really be? Meanwhile, you’d assume that Christie had more to protect, that her history was more embarrassing, somehow: a chronological downsizing of suburban homes (all of them, albeit, technically in Greenwich), a cheapness in things like bedding and glassware, or four people sharing one bathroom with a stand-up shower. And you wouldn’t be wrong. The real story was simple, of course, and if it was sad, the sadness lay only in the gap between it and Christie’s grand expectations. Christie’s father had gone into business for himself and had cash flow problems. That was all. No one had murdered anyone; the