Perfect Red/Jennie Nash: Reflections

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Early this year, I received a gift from my friend Jennie Nash, a writer and teacher whose first novel, The Only True Genius in the Family, I wrote of here. This time, the gift was wrapped in a red bow and bookmarked with a faux library card. The book was called Perfect Red, and it was, I knew, from many emails with my friend, a book that Jennie had loved making. That loving shows in every detail.

Perfect Red has since been sitting here waiting for the perfect reading hours. I found those yesterday, in the midst of an enormous storm. Client work was done and the rain was falling in white sheets and lying down beneath a blanket with a bright book in my hands was the cure for both the weather and an extremely moody back.

How easy it was to fall into this tale about an ambitious McCarthy-era writer among the sharks of New York City publishing. Lucy Lawrence, at work as a secretary in a leading publishing house, has ideas for a novel about a passion-inducing lipstick called Perfect Red. She also learns, early on, how hard it is to actually write a book, and soon she is giving her idea to a famous novelist who is stuck and in need of an imaginative re-boot. It all becomes quickly (shall we say) complicated as the novelist turns out to be an incompetent bully, as Lucy realizes that she can indeed write that novel, and as the mystery at the heart of this lipstick—Perfect Red—has some people thinking the whole thing is a communist metaphor. Who will get to write this book? How will Lucy live the lessons she learns about the difference between lust and love? And who will protect Lucy when she takes the stand before the House Un-American Activities Committee?

Perfect Red is fast-paced and fun, full of sly vignettes from the publishing world, including walk-ons from the New Yorker crowd. It's coy, it's clever, it's a flowering romance, and, Jennie, I'm so glad I saved it until yesterday—its splash of red against the white wall of weather.


Unknown said...

Oh Beth I'm so glad you spent some time with my book in the rain. What a gift that is -- and what a gift to hear your summary of it, which makes it sound so much more coherent than it ever was in my head! That's what writers need readers for: to close the loop. I treasure you (and was inspired by your summer reading list to make a short stack of my own.) Happy Tuesday -- and thank you again.

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