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Elements of Style

3.02  ·  Rating details ·  1,519 ratings  ·  254 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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Average rating 3.02  · 
Rating details
 ·  1,519 ratings  ·  254 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
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
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
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
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
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! ...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

George K. 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.
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. ...more
Jul 30, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  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. ...more
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 ....
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.
Feb 11, 2021 rated it really liked it
This was fun! This was an audiobook. I enjoyed it. Very much about the Who’s who, in this part of The City. Who’s married to whom, who they know, what they do all day and where their kids go to school.
Honestly, I laughed out loud a few times. It did have mention of 911, and how “New Yorkers” in this group of people were affected. Overall, it was fun, good read.
✨Good Beach read! 👍🏻
Ryan S
May 19, 2020 rated it liked it
Mix Sex in the City, Desperate Housewives, and the Real Housewives of (select a city), and you have this book. Wealthy entitled people doing what wealthy entitled people do... Whatever they want because money solves most people's problems right? Entertaining, but not particularly significant. ...more
Exlibris Library
Sep 06, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The most interesting and boredom-free insight into New York's high class reality after 9/11. Great demonstration of materialistic misery, unavoidable loneliness in the world of reach, powerful and vane. ...more
Christine Comito
Feb 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
really fun story about really rich socialites in Manhattan after 9/11
Kristina Howard
Oct 04, 2017 rated it liked it
Fun and light, but didn't love the ending. ...more
Aparna Kamath
Jan 03, 2018 rated it liked it
Super easy read w interesting and annoying but still interesting characters.
Karen Nickelson
Feb 20, 2018 rated it liked it
A quick read and entertaining. Mostly about New York society.
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.
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.
Amy Drill
Oct 03, 2018 rated it liked it
It’s not literature and the characters are shallow, but it was entertaining. Quick read.
Sep 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
simple, basic, easy to follow.
Jan 25, 2020 rated it did not like it
Shelves: did-not-finish
Who cares about these self absorbed people? Not me. I gave up around 80 pages. I have zero interest in where this story is going...if it's going anywhere at all. ...more
May 15, 2020 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: on-the-shelf
A very, very light read. I didn’t laugh, but was reasonably entertained, the very reason I started it. A good, but not too involving, distraction from everyday life.
Dec 04, 2020 rated it really liked it
Really more of a 3.5.
Nice, light, reasonably funny, but maybe needed Ms. Wasserstein's final touch before going to the publisher.
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. ...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.

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