Gigi Levangie

A truly compelling piece of modern macabre is a rare find. Rarer still is one that is equal parts thrilling and hilarious. Seven Deadlies, the new novel from Gigi Levangie (The Starter Wife) is one such hybrid of fine humor and dastardly characters. Told through the eyes of a straight-A Beverly Hills high schooler writing a series of seven letters (wild tales to the admissions department of Bennington College), Deadlies richly echoes the sardonic spirit of Maria Semple, Dorothy Parker, and Bret Easton Ellis. This week, Levangie offers ideas for great reading that have inspired her own winning style, and would make a fine selection for any rogue in search of wicked good fiction.

The Big Sleep
By Raymond Chandler

“And here, we meet Philip Marlowe, the quintessentially American antihero. Without Marlowe, would we have had Heisenberg in Breaking Bad? Everything about Chandler’s work is vigorous and masculine and sexually charged. There is no hesitation in his writing, and no extras. I can tell that he loved my hometown, Los Angeles — the way he dives into her dark crevices and lingers in her underbelly — you’d think we’d never seen a sunny day. And if that’s not enough, Raymond Chandler came up with the phrase ‘Dead men are heavier than broken hearts.’ So, that’s enough, right there.”

Anything by Roald Dahl

“I must have read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory a dozen times when I was growing up. I read it so many times that Charlie’s poor, bedridden grandparents were my own; his thin, hardworking father lived at my house; and the gnawing at his belly was mine. And I knew, just knew, that someday, I would find my own golden ticket. Though I love the Gene Wilder adaptation now, this is the first of many movie adaptations that broke my heart for not measuring up to the incandescent version that played in my imagination.”

San Remo Drive
By Leslie Epstein

“I bought this book when it was first released — a piece of fiction with a strong undercurrent of memoir rippling through — but only read it in the last year. Forgive me; I’m about five years behind on everything. Except my taxes. I hope. San Remo Drive, composed of interrelated installments, follows the lives of a successful Hollywood screenwriter’s family, beginning in the politically harrowing ’50s, as seen through the eyes of a favorite son, a talented teenage artist. And what wise eyes they are. We witness his first love, the supple girl next door who poses for him, in the nude; we experience the home for which the book is entitled — on a street I lived on in the Pacific Palisades; we see both the blatant and subtle destruction of this family after the death of the patriarch. Mr. Epstein’s writing reminds me of a master painter’s work — my only task is to sit back and admire. ” 

This Is How
By Augusten Burroughs

“I don’t remember how or why I bought this book — all I know is that I opened it, read a few sentences, and spent an entire night in its thrall. Yes, I paid for it the next morning, but it was worth it. This is l’enfant terrible of advice books — and I mean that as a compliment. There’s no soggy, mopey hand-holding, here. Augusten kicks us in the ass while doling out advice on topics ranging from a floundering love life to how to cope with your child’s death. No, really. And it works. No…really. I have read passages over and over, engaged in both the darting, twisting tango of words — and the gravitas of the advice, itself.”