The Bag Lady Papers: The Priceless Experience of Losing It All

Overview

I will work harder than I ever have before-which was pretty hard indeed-and see what happens. I have the feeling something good will come of it: tough, challenging work and laserlike focus have always paid off for me... Was it better to have it and then lose it? Yes, yes, yes! Even though I lived with horrible bag lady fears of losing it all, now that those financial fears have materialized, I'm in good shape and looking to what's next. Experiences-good and bad, exciting and boring, tragic and absurd-make up a ...

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The Bag Lady Papers: The Priceless Experience of Losing It All

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Overview

I will work harder than I ever have before-which was pretty hard indeed-and see what happens. I have the feeling something good will come of it: tough, challenging work and laserlike focus have always paid off for me... Was it better to have it and then lose it? Yes, yes, yes! Even though I lived with horrible bag lady fears of losing it all, now that those financial fears have materialized, I'm in good shape and looking to what's next. Experiences-good and bad, exciting and boring, tragic and absurd-make up a life. Not to have lived to the fullest is the saddest, most irresponsible life I can think of.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A victim of Bernie Madoff's ponzi scheme, mom and former Self magazine editor-in-chief Penney (How to Make Love to a Man), hyperventilates her way through this intriguing memoir of putting it back together. Finding herself almost entirely without money, Penney faces the unexpected need to retrench with a daunting sense of paranoia; brought up by aloof parents, Penney lived for a long time with a chronic, seemingly irrational fear of becoming a destitute bag lady. As a "Person of Reduced Circumstances", Penney bolsters herself with chin-up wisdom ("unless you've been mummified, you have choices and alternatives") and bravely vows to apply her own nail polish while eulogizing her days as an expensively-dressed editrix at Conde Nast. While she ponders lists labeled "money can still buy" and "money can't buy," a collection of well-heeled and influential friends encourage her with quotes from Emerson, invitations to the Caribbean and tax advice. With considerations like, "Is it worse to have had money and lost it? Or is it worse to never have had money at all?" Penney can be an (admittedly) unsympathetic protagonist, but her struggle is genuine, her charm expansive and surprising, and her strength winning.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
From the Publisher
"[Penney] writes in an appealingly plainspoken way...about gaining a deeper appreciation of life in her reduced post-Madoff circumstances." —-The Wall Street Journal
The Barnes & Noble Review

Bag Lady Syndrome may not be an actual disease, but it is a disorder that apparently haunts quantities of successful, well-heeled women: the deep-seated fear of losing everything and ending up destitute and alone.

"In December 2008," Alexandra Penney writes, "my worst nightmare came true. I found out I was dead broke. I had lost all my savings in the colossal Ponzi scheme of Bernard Madoff, forthwith to be known as the MF, which in plain English stands for…." -- well, maybe you can guess what it stands for. The bad news, appropriately enough, came while Penney was setting Baccarat crystal glasses on the dining table in her Manhattan apartment overlooking the East River. Before the evening was over, she couldn't be sure she even had a home left.

"Dead broke" in fact turns out to be a bit of an exaggeration, and Penney was never in danger of the kind of real poverty that soon faced some of Madoff's victims. She possessed some real estate, mortgaged though it was; she had countless influential friends and associates; most importantly, she had earned her living all her life and possessed a strong work ethic. (In fact Tina Brown called her as soon as she heard the news and asked her to write a blog for The Daily Beast.) Also, as Penney readily admits, the prospect of losing her son or her health would have been a worse "nightmare" than what actually happened to her. Still, The Bag Lady Papers is a spirited and thoughtful meditation on just what money can and can't buy, and on the deep irrationalism of our financial hopes and fears.

--Brooke Allen

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781401341183
  • Publisher: Hyperion
  • Publication date: 2/16/2010
  • Pages: 220
  • Sales rank: 969,365
  • Product dimensions: 8.58 (w) x 5.80 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Alexandra Penney is an artist, best-selling author, and former editor-in-chief of Self magazine. She had a one-person show at Galerie in Berlin and her work was shown at Miami's Art Basel. She lives in New York.

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Table of Contents

Glossary xi

Introduction 1

Chapter 1 December 11, 2008 5

Chapter 2 AAA-Activity Alleviates Anxiety 13

Chapter 3 There Is No Such Word as "No" 21

Chapter 4 Rich Bitch: MF + 24 HOURS 27

Chapter 5 Road Trip with "The Girls": MF + 2WEEKS 39

Chapter 6 Urgency at Ail Costs! 53

Chapter 7 There Is Such a Word as "No" 59

Chapter 8 The Copy Shop Collapse: MF + 4 WEEKS 67

Chapter 9 Change Is Good: My Fishmonger Days 75

Chapter 10 The Kindness of Friends and Strangers: MF + 5 WEEKS 87

Chapter 11 Everyone Has a Story to Tell 101

Chapter 12 If You Think You Have No Options, Think Again 113

Chapter 13 My New Life as a Person of Reduced Circumstances (PoRC): MF + 6 WEEKS 123

Chapter 14 How to Make love to a Man 133

Chapter 15 What Money Can and Can't Buy: MF + 7 WEEKS 143

Chapter 16 How to Heal a Broken Heart 153

Chapter 17 Real Estate Woes: MF + 2 MONTHS 161

Chapter 18 The Pink Ribbon 167

Chapter 19 What Can I Live Without?: MF + 9 WEEKS 181

Chapter 20 What the Bag Lady Really Fears 191

Chapter 21 How to Look and Feel Good When Recently Broke 199

Chapter 22 The Bag Lady Throws a Parry 209

Acknowledgments 217

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 8 of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 18, 2010

    The flipside to Greed -- GRIT!

    Feeling a little down, confused or blind sided by life?

    This book will give your determination a little pick me up.

    Sometimes it helps to hear others stories in order to put your own in perspective. Alexandra Penney puts it all out there...she give you the story, with all of the messy details.

    While it's scary how easily Penney ends up at 'square one' (can we say Madoff!), it's interesting to see how she picks up her grit, and the pieces of her life, and trudges on.

    In this economic time, there are many in Penney's boat, this is a close up look at how to paddle your way out of it...as best as you can.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 11, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    Unique story, best read objectively

    This book was excellent practice for reading objectively. I couldn't relate to Penney's situation, fears, or lifestyle, but she tells her story in such a way that any reader could gain something from it. The book was engaging and truly unique and I think Penney's conclusion is universal wisdom.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 25, 2010

    Worth reading through twice!

    This isn't a sob story but a terrific combination of memoir and life's lessons learned. Penney wastes no time feeling sorry for herself and just reading what she accomplished before Madoff wipped her out is fascinating. Simply a first rate book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 20, 2010

    TOO LITTLE SUBSTANCE

    There is not much to The Bag Lady Papers. It is a slim volume to start with but there isn't much substance to it. A sad story and timely, it tells about one woman's financial loss in the infamous Bernie Madoff scam. It is interesting for the first few pages, but soon becomes tedious and covers the same ground over and over again in the same way. Since the author is a woman of means it unfairly cannot help but take away some of the sting of the situation. She has a family she can rely on if she becomes truly destitute. I certainly felt sympathetic toward her but I found it very difficult to identify with her. It is not fair at all, but worrying about losing your gorgeous apartment in New York, as opposed to worrying about literally living under a bridge as many people have had to do in this horrible economy, made the story less compelling. I still feel badly for Ms. Penney and wish her well - but the story did not have the depth I was expecting.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted February 16, 2010

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    Posted February 25, 2010

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    Posted July 1, 2011

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    Posted February 19, 2010

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 8 of 9 Customer Reviews

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