Here Kitty Kitty: A Novel

( 6 )

Overview

New York at night is an urban playground where glamour and danger are just flip sides of the same thrilling coin. The tough, beautiful player at the heart of Jardine Libaire's acclaimed first novel is Lee, the consummate party girl. Lee has the right designer clothes, the right job managing a stylish restaurant, and the right lover, who finances all her bad habits. As the lights go down at closing time, the energy of the city is a call Lee cannot resist, even when her ...

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Here Kitty Kitty: A Novel

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Overview

New York at night is an urban playground where glamour and danger are just flip sides of the same thrilling coin. The tough, beautiful player at the heart of Jardine Libaire's acclaimed first novel is Lee, the consummate party girl. Lee has the right designer clothes, the right job managing a stylish restaurant, and the right lover, who finances all her bad habits. As the lights go down at closing time, the energy of the city is a call Lee cannot resist, even when her Cinderella-like existence begins to unravel.

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Editorial Reviews

Suzy Hansen
Libaire instead wisely explores her heroine's long and difficult struggle to take care of herself: to be sober, to sleep peacefully, to be alone. In the process, the author offers glittering descriptions of New York life, both its obstacles and its promise.
The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
They say the best nonfiction reads like fiction. But is the reverse also true? It would seem so after reading this gorgeously written debut novel, whose narrator is so keenly evoked that her reminiscences read like a memoir. Lee is one of New York's party girls extraordinaire. She's also a complete train wreck. She manages a trendy Tribeca restaurant yet can't pay the rent on a railroad flat in Brooklyn's hipster ghetto. Not many salaries could support her ravenous appetite for drugs or her taste for white knee-length furs from Bergdorf's. Still in mourning over her mother's death two years ago, Lee likens herself to a pint of raspberries: "On top the ruby berries looked juicy. Unwrapped and spilled into the colander, they revealed undersides black with rot." In deftly rendered scenes and flashbacks, Libaire introduces us to the eccentrics who occupy Lee's life: Yves, her French sugar daddy; Kelly, an enigmatic wanderer; Belinda, her reformed best friend. She's able to capture a character's essence in a single, lovely phrase, particularly Lee's mother: "Guests would arrive at eight and find her in a damp bikini, only beginning to scour cookbooks for ideas. But the night would be unforgettable." Laced with musings about art and marked by unexpected metaphors ("Drugs turned the cardboard box of an ordinary day into a honeycomb, dripping and blond"), the book summons consistently powerful images. But like a sloppy night of boozing recalled the morning after, some readers will wonder what the point was. More of an extended character study than a plot-focused narrative, it floats along on a cloud of Lee's narcissism, celebrating "poverty and dependence" as glamorous, despite efforts to convince the reader otherwise. Agent, Sally Wofford-Girand. (May) Forecast: Those looking for a darker, more literary slant of chick lit would do well to check this out. Libaire's fashion sense is as well-honed as her perfectly turned phrases. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780316010757
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
  • Publication date: 1/4/2008
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 244
  • Product dimensions: 8.50 (w) x 5.50 (h) x 0.55 (d)

Read an Excerpt

Here Kitty Kitty

A Novel
By Jardine Libaire

Little, Brown

Copyright © 2004 Jardine Raven Libaire
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-316-73688-0


Chapter One

The opium-eater loses none of his moral sensibilities or aspirations. He wishes and longs as earnestly as ever to realize what he believes possible, and feels to be exacted by duty; but his intellectual apprehension of what is possible infinitely outruns his power, not of execution only, but even of power to attempt. -Thomas de Quincey, from Confessions of an English Opium-Eater

ONE SHOULD consume Baileys in a crystal tumbler while watching Spice Hot. At jazz clubs, red wine and queen-sized, white-filtered Nat Shermans. At Hamptons polo games, a Pimm's Cupfor style and a line off the dash of a police-auctioned Ferrari for effect. Rème de menthe before going down on someone who deserves it. Super Bowl Sunday, Bud cans (shot gunned) and Ritalin (crushed and snorted). A boxing match on a hotel room TV, Maker's Mark Manhattans (up, three cherries) and petite ham sandwiches on a silver tray. White Castle and Remy Red for a dog-fight. While wrapping Christmas presents, Pabst Blue Ribbon and pizza. For suicidal depression on a weekday morning, pink champagne. Before a job interview, Irish coffee and Xanax. Straight tequila on your birthday. And on that night that rolls out of the blue unknown future into the lap of the present, when a lady realizes the game is over, that kind of evening calls for martinis: stock gin, filthy, up, no olives.

I found this list scrawled on a series of cocktail napkins, stuffed into a gold clutch. Belinda and I must have written it one night a couple years ago. This was our religion. Actually, it was more important; it was art. But one day, the things that make you free start to keep you down.

The beginning of the end began with a vision. I'd twisted all night to Brazilian records at Black Betty. A strawberry-blond corn rowed kid in a Lakers jersey cut lines for me in the men's room. At home, I drank warm milk with brandy. I leaned back in my orange butterfly chair and calculated the money I owed. It was uncountable.

Outside, the night sky turned turquoise at the horizon, high-lighting a clutter of buildings close by, while the World Trade Towers glittered in the distance, across Brooklyn, on the other side of the East River. I fell asleep sometime before the sun came up. I dreamed I was lying in a bathtub full of oatmeal, like the soak my mother made when I had chicken pox. Around my neck, dropping to my sternum like a necklace, lay a ring of blisters. I understood them in the dream to be "fever pearls." From above, I looked down on my body, on my bloated white form, and knew the pulsing marks to be pockets of toxins locked under my skin. I woke to sunlight, clutching a teddy bear that hadn't existed in many years.

I'd waited half an hour and was late for work. Anthony leaned against his Escalade, beefy arms crossed, talking to someone hidden under the keyboard awning. I owed him three months of rent, and soon, September. I bit my nails and watched through my cheap lace curtain.

I paced. Checked the time on my phone every thirty seconds. Opened the fridge once more: a few Rheingolds and a pink gel eye mask. Eggs and orange juice hadn't materialized. Stopped in front of the mirror to curse my baby face again. The dimple in my chin, the pucker under my eyes that made me look sleepy even when I was wired, my pout, my long, dark-red hair and Bettie Page bangs: these features conspired against me. I looked exactly like a girl who wouldn't pay rent.

Finally he left, and I ran down the stairs.

Everyone still wore leather, even though it was a hundred degrees, squinting as they emerged from steamy buildings with bull-dogs. Cars cruised, windows open, bass thumping. Girls walked to summer school pushing strollers. Boys strutted down the sidewalk, earphones around necks, diamonds in both ears. A hydrant exploded, crystal in the haze.

Air conditioners leaked down from windows. Plastic bags floated across empty basketball courts. A fat white kid, shirt hung around neck like scarf, walked in the middle of the street with a nice cream melting off the cone faster than he could lick it. "Lee."

Anthony was sitting at an outdoor table. We fought in low, restrained voices. Then he offered me two weeks to pay up. Otherwise, he warned, eviction.

"I'll do it legal, Lee, but I'll put your stuff on the street. You know I will."

"You're some friend," I said. He laughed, looked at the sky, shaking his head. "I'm not your friend."

Old Polish ladies sat on stoops and appraised me. I straightened my shoulders, sauntered past them without smiling. I was at least fifty-five K in the hole. Spread around on credit cards, personal loans (i.e., friends who wouldn't return my calls anymore), back taxes, medical and utility bills.

I was a wild card at spending money. I shopped like a Dadaist. When Belinda found out she had herpes, I sent eight dozen white roses to her apartment. Sometimes, if I felt low, I copied Warholand bought myself a birthday cake. One Saturday night, Sherry and I rented a white limousine to drive us through the city, over bridges, through tunnels, and eventually to a McDonald's drive-through in Brooklyn.

A couple years ago, Belinda and I met for lunch, which turned into afternoon martinis. It accelerated, and then we were in the back of a Town Car choosing pills from the bento box of drugs in the console.

Next I remember snow and making some sort of scene at Bergdorf's.

I'd woken up the following morning with that feeling I wasn't alone. Like when you open your eyes, and without turning around, without hearing breathing, without feeling warmth, you know there's a man in your bed. Dragged myself from the sheets and tripped into the kitchen. On the floor, a half-eaten piece of Wonder bread and a hot-pink cocktail umbrella. And there it was, lying across the table.

A white knee-length fur. Square black buttons with the Fendilogo. Gold and black Fs on the silk lining. Pleased to meet you, I thought.

Belinda used to be my partner in crime. My fellow outsider. I'd known the girl since she was a ninety-pound catalog model cracked out at System, her Australian accent rugged, her language X-rated. We used to sunbathe topless on her East Village roof, wearing white jeans and rainbow-mirrored sunglasses we'd bought on the street. After long nights, we parted ways at eight in the morning, stepping gingerly through ice in stilettos, lipstick smeared from making out with strangers in the red-lighted downstairs of clubs. We used to stumble down Avenue A, sipping tall boys in paper bags, with no destination. I picked her up from the hospital after she fainted at a rave. She picked me up after a girl clubbed my head with a cell phone on the F train.

She could have had anyone back then. Monstrous cheek-bones. Blond bob. Wicked eyes, the whites as hard as china, lashes curled back to the lid. A wide frame she used to starve to stay in business. Legs that lasted for miles. Her voice was so raspy, she'd ask for butter to be passed and men would feel she'd promised them something. She made both good and very bad choices. She'd call me from anonymous apartments. The guy's pimpled back, the dusty mirror, and no condom wrapper in sight.

Eventually I did notice a shadow, a dark thing that was chased around her face. Like a black moth behind a curtain, trying to find the way out.

A year and a half ago, she got pregnant. She freaked out, decided on abortion, but all she could do was cry in her bedroom. Matt coaxed her from the edge the way a parent beckons a toddler off thin ice in the middle of the lake-you can't go get him, you cannot frighten him, and the only way you'll save his life is to act contrary to how you feel.

Brunch shift. The Tribeca restaurant I'd managed for years, a chic converted diner, slanted like the original establishment. Mirrors framed in mother-of-pearl chips covered walls. The mosaic floor was primitive, its pieces beige, white, turquoise. The stools, whose gold sparkles reminded me of banana seats on bicycles, were pulled to a white Formica counter decorated with gold spirals and stars. We'd been written up again in Time Out, so all of uptown was downtown today.

The woman sent back her soup. I apologized and explained that it was meant to be rich. She was the kind of woman who made me feel like an orphan. Her highlights had been painted strand by strand, and she wore a white Marc Jacobs sundress and an aquamarine cube on her finger.

When she beckoned for the second time, I pretended not to notice.

"Miss," she said firmly. "Hello?" "How can I help you?"

"This white you recommended, I'm afraid it's turned." Her lips pursed as though she could barely restrain a smile. "Do you want me to taste it?" I offered.

"Um, not necessary. I mean, be my guest, if you really want to. But I know wine."

I held up one finger to indicate I'd return and walked to the bar for a new bottle. I dallied for a moment, fussing with nothing, to slow my heart rate. Then I marched back to her table and uncorked it.

"You're a doll," she said, taking a sip and winking. Walking away, I wiped sweat from my upper lip. I'd experienced much worse than this, every day, but here I was: trembling, hot. I suddenly knew I would quit.

Yves opened the office door and looked me over with ice-gray eyes. I'd been pounding a snifter of B&B and crying. He had a way of smiling without saying anything that made me feel like a child. Not missing a beat, he said he'd just stopped by to see me. The bartender had told him I was down here.

"I'm quitting," I said, my voice yolky. "I'm telling Brendan tonight. I'm going to call him at home."

With slender, suntanned hands, he struck a match and held it to two Dunhills. After shaking out the fire, he gave one to me. "Quitting," I repeated. He'd seen me fall apart a hundred times, but a new note of desperation in my voice surprised us both.

He squinted at me through the smoke he'd exhaled. His eyes moved from my right eye to my left. His cuffs, undone, exposed handsome wrists.

His face was icy, Nordic, even though that wasn't his heritage. Arched eyebrows and pointed eyeteeth, plus a slant of skin over cold blue cat eyes, made for a beautiful and frightening face. His chin wasn't too small, or too delicate, but there was a fineness to its sculpted shape that lent the head a feminine dimension. Yves was old enough to be my father. In some ways-table manners, yellow-white hair like the inside of banana skin-he seemed older, and in other ways-lithe golden body, nightlife stamina-younger.

He wore high-waisted slacks like Fred Astaire. Walked like a gentleman, as if he could break out tap-dancing. His voice rumbled in his Adam's apple: a jaguar purring, licking blood from it sown teeth.

"Do you know what that bitch said to me?" I asked, and then put my hand on the phone. "I'm calling Brendan now." "I have an idea," he said in that European murmur. I looked at him scornfully. "What."

"Take tonight to think about it and then call him tomorrow." This flooded my eyes again, but the tears lodged in lashes like beads. He stepped toward me, brushed one hand through my hair. He held my hand so I could go nowhere, and ordered me home.

Walking from the subway to my building, the sun beat so hard on my face I could hear my eternal sinus infection bubbling. I dropped out of college after my freshman year and moved to Cape Cod. Two years of living like a bum there, I moved to the city, and within a couple years, I was living with Kai.

We both worked in kitchens, but he was in culinary school at the same time. Kai always pretended to be destitute, disappearing to the men's room when the check came. We were kids together. We joked about farting and fought over drugs.

Kai had a dirty mouth. He looked, with his blond crew cut and pink cheeks, like somebody's baby brother. He left two and a half years ago to apprentice in Paris. He left with no warning. I would have gone with him, even though he was an idiot.

When Kai and I made love, if it was good, I went to a dark place. Not as in morbid or sinister. Literally: a void. Occasionally, images bubbled up like gardenias surfacing, with clean petals, in a pit of tar. I'd been seeing Yves for almost a year now. He was a regular at the restaurant, and he'd courted me politely. One day, after we'd flirted a couple months, he started sending gifts.

White-truffle oil. A black Celine scarf. Red lipstick in a gold case. This guy was bringing me Richart chocolates when I couldn't afford toilet paper. Sherry was over the morning of the first snowfall when an antique blond fur collar arrived. She tried it on, and the yellow tufts against her ebony skin looked elegant and crazy. "You should take it," I said.

"Come on, girl. Don't give away a man's gift. You got no manners." "It's beautiful on you."

"Maybe one day I'll borrow it," she drawled, smoking, stretching out on my couch. "It's very movie star. It's very gangster's girl." "Fully," I agreed, turning the collar in my hands.

Each time Yves gave me something, I got sweet. It was so linear. I was a kitty cat lapping milk, swishing its tail. Because I'd been hung out to dry by Kai, these luxuries made me safe.

Yves took care of me. When I was disorderly, he looked around the room, wide-eyed, and declared: My God, she's a hellcat. Or he'd get me another drink and tell me to sit down and shut up. I often got hiccups; he'd summon a lemon slice doused in bitters from the waiter, hold it to my mouth.

My only complaint was his music. At Virgin I took him through the aisles, filling his shopping basket. I slipped his old CDs to the housekeeper: Paula Abdul, Big Audio Dynamite, Hanson. I think it was a European thing. Movies, too. He watched Titanic eighty times. He chain-smoked as the ship went down, clutching the leather arm of the couch as though the loft were sinking too. I eventually learned through gossip about the women right before me. The Hungarian countess sounded like a melancholic delicacy. Once in a while, she still came to Raoul's to drink wine at the bar with older men. She never spoke, never laughed. The hollows around her eyes were darkly glamorous, her mouth sullen: she had the beauty of an insomniac. I didn't know her name but called her Ophelia in my mind.

Marcelle was French like Yves, a couple years older than him, taller, and at least as tough. She'd modeled her way from a farm town to New York City at the age of sixteen. Married a series of international visionaries, amicably divorced them. Became indispensable to a couturier, and was now exalted and consulted by everyone. I saw her at a museum party. She was turned away from me: her architecture as brutal as that of an Egon Schiele subject. Black jersey clung to her and pooled on the floor. Jade chandelier earrings hung to her shoulders like rain. People said she and Yves were more expatriate siblings than lovers.

(Continues...)


Excerpted from Here Kitty Kitty by Jardine Libaire Copyright © 2004 by Jardine Raven Libaire. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 25, 2013

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 26, 2006

    Disagreeing with the baby boomer

    I very much enjoyed this novel. Libaire's fluid, almost lyrical prose was filled with subtle depth without being preachy. Her characters were entirely believable although difficult to warm to at first. The author's unusual observations and keen awareness of New York make this book worth all it's twenty dollars. I highly reccommend it, although probably to a younger audience.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 26, 2006

    Not What I Expected

    One recent rainy afternoon, I consumed this entire novel in one sitting. Its elegant prose felt so effortless that I wanted to keep hearing it in my head, the way I sometimes want to listen to a perfect, sad song over and over again.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 16, 2005

    she's got the Williamsburg girl down pat

    I picked up this book at a little bookstore close to Conde Nast (4 Times Square) on my lunch break. I thought I would give it a whirl, since it was about a woman living and partying her way through life in NYC. Since I recently decided to tone down my own, I thought it was a little ironic. I have to say, it was a great read, full of moments that are quintessentially the life of a young 'burg artist/ hipster. It exemplifies a certain NYC experience: wants to be an artist again (if she could just stop partying so much, but the ideas won't be good anymore if she commits them to paper anyway, so screw it), works in bar/restaurant where everyone parties, lives in uber cool area, but is still super raunchy in parts, despite its glossy bars...From the crackwhore that lives under the BQE that I wonder about everyday, to the bakery that sells cocaine over the counter to young latino girls while I wait on my coffee, this book is the story of a girl like me in New York. Even though its characters are a little too expected (read: Mr.Big-'ish') the best part of this book is the story within her own head: How to stop drinking and smoking, what to do next, how to pick up a paint brush and find yourself again, sans men and everything else. I recommend it to anyone who is getting to NYC as 'what to not do' and anyone who is ready to grow up a bit as a 'what to do next'.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 12, 2004

    sorry folks

    I bought this book and thought to myself, this looks so good. Well, I'm disappointed. I kept reading it and reading it hoping it would get better. I have just never read anything so blah. It's all over the place and I think the writer must have been on drugs herself when she wrote it. There is no flow to it. I hated to think I spent twenty bucks on it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 18, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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