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Tasha RobinsonCaitlin Macy's debut novel, The Fundamentals Of Play, is a historical romance for an era barely past, a soulful lament for the simpler lifestyle of about a week ago. Like Scarlett O'Hara watching Atlanta burn, Macy's twentysomething Ivy Leaguers watch as their brittle, guarded world of privilege is infected with cell phones, the Internet, and the most nouveau of the nouveau riche: tech-geek venture capitalists. Narrator George Lenhart is a despairing first-year Wall Street analyst, speeding his life away with 100-hour work weeks so he can comfortably "wake up old." Most of the color in his world comes from the casually snobbish rich kids he befriended in prep school and at Dartmouth--particularly Kate Goodenow, a breezy bon vivant who was "made to be indulged." Her offhand boyfriend, Chat Wethers, is too artfully disengaged to express jealousy for her other suitors, including his ex-roommate Harry Lombardi, a puppy-eager, hopelessly crass computer savant. Lenhart's coterie doesn't understand the significance of the "browser" Lombardi is developing for some upcoming "web" of computers, but they understand his sudden wealth and power. Goodenow's choice between Lombardi's sloppy, new-money lifestyle and Wethers' old-money primness is further complicated by two other prospects: Lenhart himself, who has an acceptable lineage but no money, and childhood sweetheart Nick Beale, who has no breeding, no cash, and absolute freedom. Macy practically reduces the birth of a new American class structure to an animal-husbandry issue: Which of the four available bull studs is best fit to breed the next generation? But she cattily doubles back on her own allegory so often that it's hard to distinguish conscious satire from outright narrative chaos, particularly when she finally descends into hopeless romance-novel bathos and Lenhart himself decries the story as a cliché. It's hard to divine a single honest intention on Macy's part. She tells a solid, mostly compelling story while openly mocking it, evokes nostalgia for a lifestyle she portrays as unbearably shallow, and dryly filters current events through literary conventions more often reserved for gushy Civil War romances. As a book, The Fundamentals Of Play is alternately brilliant and embarrassingly juvenile, but as a cultural artifact, it's a sizzling nugget of black irony that can only be safely read with the detached amusement its central characters value above all other things.
— Onion AV Club