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Patricia Marx is one of the finest comic writers of her time, as readers ofThe New Yorkerand fans ofSaturday Night Livealready know. Her fiction debut is an endlessly entertaining comic novel about one woman's romantic fixation on her first boyfriend. Marx's unabashedly neurotic heroine falls for philosopher Eugene Obello during her graduate school days in Cambridge, England. Why would anyone fall for a man who receives a grant to pursue Ego Studies? Why would that person remain obsessed, even after this guy marries and becomes a father? By "obsessed," we mean, well. . . sex and lusting and longing and hoping and waiting for this cad who is spread too thin. Her friends loathe him. Why can't she drop him? Is it because she was the only virgin on campus before she bumped into Eugene (a man who was hardly a virgin)? Is it because he kept a copy of the Magna Carta in his pocket? "You know what I think it really was?" she reflects. "He was a narcissist. I love narcissists. . . you don't have to buoy them up. " When things get unbearable, our girl gives up trying to write her thesis -- and tries to give up on Eugene. She says good-bye to her dormitory room, decorated in a color she calls veal, and becomes a TV writer in New York on the hit sketch-comedy showTaped But Proud. Coincidentally, Eugene moves to New York as well -- to teach a seminar called "Toward a Philosophy of the Number Two" ("And if that goes well," he says, "they might let me have a go at the number three"). More years of lusting and longing, hoping and waiting. Until a spectacular event changes everything.
Patricia Marx is one of the finest comic writers of her time, as readers of "The New Yorker" and fans of "Saturday Night Live" already know.
While waiting in line for apple pie at a party, Imogene Gilfeather, a lingerie designer who does not understand the reason for romance, meets Wally Yez, a scientist whose business card says "An Answer for Everything." Imogene is told that Wally is the perfect guy. ("Perfect," she replies, "is not my type.") He is told that her company, Featherware, manufactures intimates (that gets his attention). Unfazed by Imogene's indifference (who needs love when you have a career, friends, and an undemanding affair with a married man?), Wally resolves to win her over. E-mails turn into late-night phone calls; one date turns into two and then into more. Thus begins the most absurd and amusingly unbalanced relationship to grace the pages of a novel. Wally is certain he and Imogene are meant for each other (They both use mechanical pencils! Neither has had mumps! They are so alike!), but convincing his beloved is another matter. ("Do you know why it is I don't have pierced ears?" she asks. "Because it's too permanent.") In defiance of the odds, or the gods, or perhaps just Imogene's qualms, Wally and Imogene become a pair. They celebrate their anniversaries--the first time they touched each other on purpose, took public transportation together, saw the other with wet hair. But can they possibly end as happily as they've begun? ("Does he really have a cowlick? If yes, no bed will ever be big enough.") Made up of hundreds of chaplettes, clever illustrations, and darkly funny commentary on getting together and staying the course, Starting from Happy is a cunning and sophisticated send-up of coupledom that showcases one of the finest comic writers of our time.
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