Mimi

Mimi

4.7 8
by Lucy Ellmann
     
 

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Bach, sculpture, plastic surgery, public speaking and a New York love story like no other - this is Lucy Ellmann's most extraordinary work of art to dateSee more details below

Overview

Bach, sculpture, plastic surgery, public speaking and a New York love story like no other - this is Lucy Ellmann's most extraordinary work of art to date

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Ellman's (Sweet Deserts; Varying Degrees of Hopelessness;) thin romantic plot is virtually obscured by lists, prattle, and rant, all of which might be palatable if not so buried under the author's distracting treatises. On a steady stream of exclamation points, italics, capital letters, plays on words, and alliterations, readers are force-fed heavy-handed feminism along with a bit of bawdy sex. In place of literary substance that might better bolster and advance the story line, lists pop up as the device of choice, page after page of: Why I Hate Bathrobes, Things That Bug Me, etc. Also tossed into the mix are songs, recipes, and other asides. VERDICT Mimi is less a novel and more an author leveling a barrage of her views at potential readers. Whatever gems there are may be rendered unrecognizable in this frenetic mishmash. This book may be best suited for readers who prefer having their every reaction blatantly dictated to them by a dauntless author.—Joyce Townsend, Pittsburg, CA
Publishers Weekly
A curmudgeonly New Yorker discovers his inner feminist in Ellmann’s incisive, witty sixth novel (after Doctors & Nurses). When noted plastic surgeon Harrison Hanafan slips on an icy patch of Madison Avenue sidewalk and sprains his ankle, he is aided by a “wacko broad” who puts him in a cab and then disappears. Harrison convalesces by listening to classical music, caring for a rescued stray cat, and panicking over the speech he’s been asked to give for his high school alma mater when, suddenly, he encounters his mysterious savior and a quirky romance blooms. Mimi, his new love, proves a catalyst for discovering how much of his world revolves around the women in his life. He finds excitement and challenge with Mimi, a chief confidant in his older sister, Bee, and an adversary in his high-maintenance ex-girlfriend, Gertrude. Even his cat turns out to be female. When tragedy strikes, Harrison’s ideas on women, culture, and society evolve even faster, and his conclusions crystallize into the speech of a lifetime. Ellmann’s biting, absurd wit drives the oddball plot forward, and despite the tale’s slow pace and Harrison’s occasionally ponderous ramblings, at its heart is a memorable character with a unique voice and a provocative message. Agent: David Godwin, DGA, U.K. (Feb.)
Kirkus Reviews
Another self-consciously erudite comedy from Ellmann (Doctors and Nurses, 2006, etc.), this time a romance about a plastic surgeon whose love for a good woman helps him take stock. On Christmas Eve--the novel is organized by holidays--plastic surgeon Harrison Hanafan slips on the ice in Midtown Manhattan and sprains his ankle. Having recently broken up with his girlfriend, Gertrude, a rich art lover with no redeeming characteristics except her son (born by parthenogenesis), Harrison recuperates at home for weeks with his newly adopted cat, Bubbles, playing music and making lists as is his wont. An invitation that arrives in the mail to give a speech at his old high school causes him to call his sister Bee, who escaped her abusive husband and is now a sculptor in England, and to ruminate about his unhappy childhood. Afraid of speechmaking, he hires a coach who turns out to be the plump, middle-aged mystery woman who saved him on Christmas Eve by putting him in a cab. Love blooms between Harrison and Mimi, full of bons mots and more lists that give the author a chance to share her sociological and cultural insights ad nauseam. The romance does face bumps in the road. Gertrude arrives and tries to seduce Harrison just as Mimi walks in. Then, there is the random murder of Bee, shot by a crazed ex-soldier in a rage against women. And Bubbles is run over but survives. The skimpy plot of Harrison's emotional and moral growth is encased in thick layers of social commentary, one-liner repartee and those endless lists. The sense of being preached to is strong throughout. And excepting the lyrics to some lovely old songs like "Joe Hill" and "She'll Be Comin' Round the Mountain," the appendix with Harrison's feminist manifesto is mostly annoying. Ellman's use of visuals and wordplay, as well as her comic sensibility, is very much a matter of taste, though her tone strongly implies that the readers who don't get her are merely plebeians anyway.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781620400258
Publisher:
Bloomsbury USA
Publication date:
02/26/2013
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
352
File size:
2 MB

Read an Excerpt

MIMI

A Novel


By LUCY ELLMANN

BLOOMSBURY

Copyright © 2013Lucy Ellmann
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-62040-020-3


Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

CHRISTMAS EVE, 2010


So I was walking down Madison Avenue reading an article about some Italian reporter who claimed Philip Roth had said something mean about Obama. The guy had interviewed a whole lot of famous writers and they'd all said mean things about Obama and unanimously praised Berlusconi. But it was all baloney. The Italian reporter was probably just some louse in the pay of Berlusconi, one of the worst guys in the world.

It was at this point that I slipped on the ice at the corner of Madison and 36th, thereby transplanting myself in an instant from the realm of the lofty, vertical and intellectual to that of the lowly and prostrate. I blame the sun in my eyes. I slalomed for half a block, trying to grab hold of \ re hydrants, golden poles and other injurious ironmongery, along with the recoiling calves of fellow pedestrians, my well-iced ass drawing me ever closer to the Christmas Eve traffic, that herd of the hopeless hurling themselves toward family get-togethers or finally giving in on the purchase of some exorbitant toy.

The Good News, I thought as I slid, was that there was now not the slightest chance of my backsliding instead into a half-hearted reconciliation with Gertrude, whom I had only just managed to discard—since even she would have to concede that I was now in no condition to present myself at the mass rally of the faithful currently stringing popcorn and glueing sequins on felt at Gertrude's Connecticut country cottage, in the annual e? ort to assuage her sense of having somehow missed out on something during her lonely if lavish childhood.

Deluded, our first year together, by the elation of conquest, I had actually helped with the decorations, standing at some personal peril on an antique stepladder to wrestle with garlands, or "garland" (as Gertrude perversely called them), miles of coiled strands of once-living foliage dotted with little white lights and big red velvet bows. These we distributed all over Gertrude's mansion (or "cottage") in carefully stage-managed fashion, leaving no architectural feature or Picasso print unemphasized. Receiving in return my very own gunky Christmas stocking made of organic hemp hessian adorned with locally carded wool gently shorn from the happiest of pedigree sheep, then dyed in such deep shades of carcinogenic crimson that your hands come out all pink and stinky when you delve in to get at the presents.

My solution to Gertrude's Xmas Xtravaganzas in the ensuing wearisome years was to put myself in charge of Eggnog production, turning it into a great art and making the stuff so goddam strong I could usually achieve a nauseous stupor before Gertrude noticed what was going on, entitling me to private porch time—where, if necessary, a guy can vomit into the bushes—a ritual marred only by the guests who followed me out there, and Gertrude's invariable questions concerning:

1. The number of mixing bowls used.

2. The number of days the whole alchemical procedure entailed.

3. The proliferation of abandoned egg whites.


For, to throw away spare egg whites would have shaken her already precarious handle on domesticity and Rombaueresque frugality. No holding her back on the Ti? any party-bags though, was there?—those pale blue offerings (otherwise known as guilt trips), bestowed on every blasted gadfly and flibbertigibbet she invited, and blindly accepted by them in conjunction with, but complete contradiction of, the egg-white omelettes and meringues.

Irma Rombauer was in fact responsible for my own Eggnog recipe, but I'd cranked it up a notch. Good old Irma, who had the whole nation swinging behind her there for a while, dressing up in checked aprons to open a million cans of mushroom soup, hash, canned oysters even! (Was nothing fresh in 1950?) There they were, saving those leftovers, planning Luncheons, making their One Minute Frosting, Ice Box Cookies, and Milk Toast for the recovering invalid (did they recover? on that?). Without Irma, none of us would have known what a vol-au-vent was, nor seen our mothers stuff old chicken scraps into one. And what about the dangers of undercooking ... well, just about anything? King Spock and Queen Irma, our native pair of know-it-alls, who made a fortune telling everybody how to do it the easy way, from bedwetting to borscht.

Thus, by zigzagging horizontally down Madison Avenue I had saved myself many psychological and physiological torments in the wilds of Connecticut. The Bad News was that I was still on my ass in the gathering gloom, and in Manhattan a man without an upright position hasn't got a chance. Any minute now I'd freeze permanently to the sidewalk where the Jews and Muslims would find me Christmas morning—Cause of Death: sprained ankle. But I was underestimating New York. Of course there was a wacko broad ready to yank me up before checking if I'd broken anything.

"Ya can't sit there all day, buddy, looking up people's skirts," she declared.

"I was beginning to think that myself," I replied, as a firm, untrained hand inserted itself under each armpit from behind.

Once standing (gingerly) on one foot, I was able to inspect my savior—a plump middle-aged gal with brown eyes, and brown curls poking out of her Eskimo hood, her entire torso encased in one of those full-length pu? y white numbers that imitate (or are?) bedding—before she plunged into the river of yellow cabs, apparently in order to hail me one. At 4:30, Christmas Eve! 3:30 maybe, 7:30 sure. But 4:30? "Ya gotta be kiddin', pal!" Time for all good Yemeni taxi-drivers to be home with their fretful families. Sometimes Manhattan goes parochial on you, not cosmopolitan at all but subject to strange suburban rites. The mask slips and you see ... AMERICA lurking below, what you came to New York to get away from! So it was handy to have a fine example of a Manhattan madwoman on my side, ready to wade into Madison Avenue until a cab either stopped or ran her over, complete with her bags of touching Christmas treats: chocolate éclairs no doubt, or profiteroles maybe, to be consumed later in solitary squalor under the glare of her pet spider and the bare bulb needed to keep the thing alive.

It worked! Soon ensconced in the fetid folds of a taxicab and distracted by pain (acute), shock (temporary), hypothermia (imaginary), hypochondria (just the usual), and rudeness (innate), I failed to thank the woman. But the sight of her out the back window abruptly erased the sad sack impression I'd formed at first. With her circular face surrounded by fake fur, her pink cheeks radiant (in fact kind of sweaty) from her exertions on my behalf, and a slight smile forming on her lips, she now looked more like something Gertrude would cover with glitter and stick on top of the tree.

CHAPTER 2

CHRISTMAS DAY


Equipped with my diagnosis (as I thought, sprained ankle), bandages, ice packs, a pretty premature physiotherapy advice sheet, and the few shreds of dignity that had survived all the doctor-as-patient jokes in the Emergency Ward, I slunk around my apartment like Smokey the Bear, weakened, depleted, a-prowlin' and a-growlin' and a-sniffin' the air. That I, Harrison Hanafan, an eminent New York plastic surgeon with a drawer full of a] davits from admiring patients attesting to my ingenuity and aesthetic awareness, should find myself floundering, CRAWLING ON THE GROUND! I was one of them now, the hapless, helpless, needy greedy unwell.

It suddenly seemed clear that I would never ascend Everest, or abseil down the Empire State Building, or fly to the moon—not soon anyway. I'd never be asked to pitch for the Yankees, never carry a bride across a thr
(Continues...)


Excerpted from MIMI by LUCY ELLMANN. Copyright © 2013 by Lucy Ellmann. Excerpted by permission of BLOOMSBURY.
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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