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Elements of Style

3.02  ·  Rating details ·  1,446 ratings  ·  247 reviews
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 Fr
Hardcover, 307 pages
Published April 18th 2006 by Alfred A. Knopf (first published January 1st 2006)
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3.02  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,446 ratings  ·  247 reviews

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Jul 20, 2010 rated it really liked it
It's sad to read this four years after Wasserstein's early death. (Apparently the book itself was published posthumously as well.) It's not necessarily moving, but Elements of Style is very funny. In my estimation there's only one character for whom the reader is supposed to care (Dr. Frankie Weissman, with whom the book begins and ends), which has clearly made it difficult for many reviewers here to care about the book as a whole. But if you take this as a skewering of the world of the Upper Ea ...more
Ashley Ward
Feb 12, 2012 rated it it was ok
I have been reading a string of really bad books lately. So while this one was also really bad, at least it was marginally entertaining. I need to stop checking out books off the "recommended" shelf at my local library. Clearly, whoever picks those books and I have completely different tastes.

Anyway, I was in Wendy Wassterstein's play called "The Heidi Chronicles" in college, and it is a story very near and dear to my heart. I loved its focus on a woman on the edge of the feminist revolution str
Aug 21, 2016 rated it did not like it
What a mess. Wendy trains the Big Guns on a sitting duck, i.e. the sort of women (the male characters only exist as appendages to their consorts with one exception) who staff the upper echelons of New York City "society", something that has been a pain in the ass to the rest of the country since Mrs. Astor's fabled 400. As if the shallow, narcissistic harpies that Wasserstein drags out aren't overkill enough, she sets them in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, but even that doesn't really do it. S ...more
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 affai ...more
May 03, 2014 rated it it was ok
This book was awful. I'm not even quite sure why I finished it, but it did. It was so dumb, i can't even find anything even remotely intelligent to say about it. It was set in a post 9/11 NYC about this group of fashionistas, men and women. And the reason that I know it was about a post 9/11 society was because they said it EVERY OTHER PAGE!!!! Ugh!Actually, that's not quite accurate. It was almost like this author wrote the novel and then opened the pages and threw her finger down and said, "He ...more
Jun 21, 2012 rated it liked it
Very funny book about shallow members of New York society. Eventually some of the shallow characters get insights into their lives--and those are also quite shallow. The problem with the book is that shallow characters get predictable after awhile. I think I might have been fascinated by this if it were my introduction to New York socialites, but this has been done before.

Wasserstein is better known for her plays--this is her first novel. She is best known for depicting middle-aged women who su
Feb 08, 2008 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
First off, there will be spoilers so if you want to read this book and don't like to know anything before you read it (like me) then don't read on!

What was this? I love Wendy Wasserstein as a playwright. I couldn't wait to read this book! I thought that it would be a witty satire on New York's "finest" (not the firefighters, the Upper East Siders) after 9/11. I was sorely mistaken.

The first few chapters are delightful and engaging, but soon, you long for the book to go somewhere... 307 pages l
Bookmarks Magazine

Critics felt traitorous calling Wendy Wasserstein's debut novel, published so soon after her death, a bit of a disappointment, but many agreed that what works so well on stage (the Pulitzer Prize? and Tony Award?winning play The Heidi Chronicles) does not translate well to prose. Some critics thought the novel possessed the verve and "charmingly neurotic" heroine (USA Today)__a Wendy stand-in__of her best-known work and praised Wasserstein's keen eye for social satire. Others called Elements of

Mar 12, 2013 rated it really liked it
Clearly written escapism, "Elements of Style" draws you in with well-crafted indulgent, ridiculous, and highly unlikeable characters more obsessed with their Upper East Side social status than anything else. Their lavish lifestyles are intriguing, if not unbelievable, and I was quickly intrigued by each character's personal story.

I would have completely loved this book if not for some completely over-the-top plot points. Yes, rich people also have problems, but plaguing every character with see
Dec 13, 2008 rated it it was ok
I think the characters were all meant to be despised, but I'm still not sure that's what the author wanted to have happen. Maybe she wanted them to seem real by all of their flaws, but they just came off as selfish, snobby, and immoral. I kept waiting for a redeeming factor and it never really came.
Jul 30, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved it! Light and delightful at first, but Wasserstein's insights into human nature are quietly observed. I deeply admire her ability to show multiple aspects of her characters, so that in varying turns I felt compelled, repulsed, and compassionate for the same character.
Oct 13, 2007 rated it liked it
It was a little lame, but I still liked it. I was expecting more from Wendy, but the poor thing is no longer with us, so ....
Sep 08, 2015 rated it really liked it
This is decent chick lit. I'm sure the world expected more of Wendy Wasserstein, but I'm not going to judge her. It was snooty and insightful and entertaining. I liked it for a quick read!
George Ilsley
Every now and then I read a book and then wonder why on earth I did such a thing. Perhaps such books are palate cleansers but they leave a kind of sticky residue. I did not understand any of these characters, especially what Samantha saw in Barry. Labelled this humour and satire because otherwise it is not anything at all. Sorry, poor dead author. I can only assume you did not really have the chance to finish this.
Nov 13, 2018 rated it it was ok
Library describes this as “A satirical look at the lives of the New York City socialites shortly after 9/11.” I do not think the satire resonates as clearly as some critics found it. I was reminded of Bonfire of the Vanities – this book shows that the “social x-rays” didn’t go away after the excesses of the 1980’s. Though this book was fairly enjoyable, I cannot say that I will highly recommend it – something seems to be missing.
Jul 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I had forgotten what a treasure Wendy was. Her writings surpass time and this story even though written 12 years ago is still a story that could be today.
Kristina Howard
Oct 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Fun and light, but didn't love the ending.
retronerd  Steinkuehler
Jul 13, 2017 rated it did not like it
Yarda yada ya. Blah blah blah... DNF. Went no where fast....
Karen Nickelson
Feb 20, 2018 rated it liked it
A quick read and entertaining. Mostly about New York society.
Aparna Kamath
Jan 03, 2018 rated it liked it
Super easy read w interesting and annoying but still interesting characters.
A Drill
Oct 03, 2018 rated it liked it
It’s not literature and the characters are shallow, but it was entertaining. Quick read.
Feb 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
really fun story about really rich socialites in Manhattan after 9/11
Jun 23, 2018 rated it it was ok
Not my favorite book--too much language, etc. The one redeeming thing is that it highlights what is important and what is not.
Annie ⚜️
Oct 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I forgot how crazy we went after 9/11. We need more Wassersteins. Many didn't like the characters but, yes, such as in life a-holes often come out of things unscathed and life isn't fair.
I love Wendy Wasserstein's plays. I've recently read An American Daughter, Uncommon Women and Others, Isn't it Romantic, and The Heidi Chronicles and Other Plays. I'll read The Sisters Rosensweig also, soon. And not a play, but also recommended Wendy and the Lost Boys: The Uncommon Life of Wendy Wasserstein.

But the bright, flawed, terrific, neurotic women we care so much about in her plays aren't in this novel... Well, there's one maybe, but you question her for wanting to spend her time around
Oct 12, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I went into this expecting a delightful and undemanding girlie read, and I got it, but this is not a standard guilty pleasure lady book, like that one I read a few months ago about the ladies in hollywood and their divorces - I've forgotten the name but I think I reviewed it. This is the first thing I've read by Wendy Wasserstein, and I've learned just a little bit about her from other reviewers, who on the whole found this book to be kind of superficial and non-awesome. Contrarily, I have found ...more
Chloe Lee
Mar 02, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was slightly wary when i first picked up the book, seeing the amount of rather negative comments on it. However, the novel turns out to be a pleasant surprise and I would like to speak up in its defense. As "The Chicago Times" points out (and quoted on the cover of my version), this is a modern day Jane Austen. However not a lot appreciate the beauty and sophistication of Austen, and seemingly Wassestein might also have to be reduced to a chick-lit writer or had to rely on her other works to s ...more
Jun 06, 2012 rated it did not like it
This book was horribly hard to get through, many gaps in the 'plot' if it could be called a plot, the grammar and spelling mistakes made it worse, and the jumping around from character to character was also hard to follow. I picked up this book solely based on the cover, and I know I didn't pay much more than a few dollars for this book, and honestly, it just isn't worth more than a few dollars. There was absolutely no plot line that I found throughout the book, and nothing that implored me to k ...more
Jul 31, 2012 rated it really liked it
I liked this book. After reading Wendy and the Lost Boys, a biography of Wasserstein, I was interested to read some of her writing. This book has been criticized as being only chick-lit. I ask - what's wrong with chick-lit? Certainly some of it is very bad, but some of it can be very, very good. This is a genre that has a much broader scope that embraces human interaction on many levels, not just romantic, although romance does play a big part. But what is romance after all? It is love. This is ...more
Oct 04, 2010 rated it liked it
Welp, this book exemplifies a three-star rating. There are things in here that I loved, and other things that I completely hated. It definitely works as a critique of life in the immediate aftermath of 9/11. At the same time, there is literally only one character in the whole damn book who is likable, and she ends up getting screwed over big time in the end. The story arcs of other characters seem to end three quarters of the way through. Too bad, as there were honestly some great lol moments he ...more
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Wendy Wasserstein was an award-winning American playwright and an Andrew Dickson White Professor-at-Large at Cornell University. She was the recipient of the Tony Award for Best Play and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.