Ground Up: A Novel [NOOK Book]

Overview

Light streams through the windows as the espresso machine roars; a gorgeous, rich scent fills the air; and witty conversation unspools over the porcelain cups.

That’s the café dream. Mark and Nina are about to experience the reality. Determined to re-create the perfect Viennese coffeehouse, they descend on New York’s gritty but hip Lower East Side to educate the locals on authentic café culture. Soon Mark and Nina are in a downward spiral that...

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Ground Up: A Novel

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Overview

Light streams through the windows as the espresso machine roars; a gorgeous, rich scent fills the air; and witty conversation unspools over the porcelain cups.

That’s the café dream. Mark and Nina are about to experience the reality. Determined to re-create the perfect Viennese coffeehouse, they descend on New York’s gritty but hip Lower East Side to educate the locals on authentic café culture. Soon Mark and Nina are in a downward spiral that will strip them of money, friends, sex life, status, shelter, and, finally, sanity—and offer salvation through something they have never experienced: disaster.

Inspired by the author’s own coffeehouse hell, Ground Up is a sharp and funny portrait of a New York constantly reinventing itself, and a surprisingly tender story of falling out of love and back in it again.


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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

From Idov, a staff writer for New York magazine, comes a sagely wry novel loosely based on his experience running the short-lived Cafe Trotsky on Manhattan's Lower East Side. In the fictionalized version, newlyweds Mark and Nina are living off her trust fund on the Upper West Side. Mark writes the occasional book review and Nina has given up her halfhearted career in entertainment law to pursue photography. After a guest (and, coincidently, Michelin reviewer) compliments their food at a dinner party they're hosting, Nina confides that she has always dreamed of running a cafe, and soon the pair are preparing to open their own hip downtown Viennese paradise. Lacking in experience but full of enthusiasm, the couple battles with landlords, contractors, coffee distributors and temperamental pastry chefs, yet Cafe Kolschitzky bows badly: friends barely show up and a Starbucks knockoff sets up shop across the street. Meanwhile, their funding is cut, no profits have been turned and the naïve couple begins to unravel. Packed with insight and frequent hilarious asides, Idov's debut mercilessly takes down "money is an illusion" bohoism. (Aug.)Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Kirkus Reviews
A fiercely funny yet frequently touching novel about the nightmare that the American dream can become. The debut novel by Idov, a staff writer for New York magazine and editor of Russia!, a literary quarterly, strikes all the right chords-both cultural and emotional. Narrator Mark Scharf and his wife, Nina Liau, decide to open a hip coffeehouse on Manhattan's Lower East Side, based on their romantic memories of one they had visited in Vienna. The daughter of a wealthy Chinese-American woman from whom she is semi-estranged (yet whose wealth allows Mark and Nina to live well beyond their means), Nina is a talented photographer and a deeply dissatisfied lawyer. The son of Russian Jews who live in Indiana, Mark attempts to scrape together a living by reviewing books for this very publication (with book reviewing providing much of the novel's humor as well as a pivotal plot twist). Because Nina hates her job, and Mark doesn't have much of a job, he accedes to her desire to reinvent themselves through a project where they can work together. "Nina wasn't worried about the low return," says Mark. "She wanted to be paid in meaning." Mark knows all the right literary and musical references, all the right cosmopolitan cliches, but he's a rube when it comes to real-estate agents, avaricious landlords and the intricacies of public relations. As much as he and Nina appreciate coffee, they know nothing about selling it, though they receive a crucial lesson early on. "The good news is that the margin on coffee is about a thousand percent . . . The bad news, my friends, is that Americans don't like to drink coffee . . . They hate the taste of it. What they like to drink is warm milk . . . Your job is toconvince, in an original way, a guy drinking a glass of warm milk that he's a sophisticated adult." Everything that can go wrong will, in a manner both hilarious (the coffeehouse) and poignant (the marriage). Though the protagonist's own book reviews are usually caustic, even he would give this debut a rave.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781429939447
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 7/21/2009
  • Sold by: Macmillan
  • Format: eBook
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 304
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author



Michael Idov is a staff writer for New York magazine and a frequent contributor of Russian-language columns and criticism to major Moscow publications. This is his first novel.

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