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The Anxiety of Everyday Objects

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In her absorbing debut novel, Sheehan's depiction of the working girl's life in the big city is as charming as it is inspiring. Single, not yet thirty, and devoted companion to her dignified cat, Fruit Bat, Winona Bartlett is a secretary at a New York City law firm. Though she finds a certain security in the rituals of her demandingly undemanding job, Winona's real ambition is to be a filmmaker. And her romantic life is a mess. When a new lawyer—a blind woman named Sandy Spires—joins the firm and challenges ...

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Overview

In her absorbing debut novel, Sheehan's depiction of the working girl's life in the big city is as charming as it is inspiring. Single, not yet thirty, and devoted companion to her dignified cat, Fruit Bat, Winona Bartlett is a secretary at a New York City law firm. Though she finds a certain security in the rituals of her demandingly undemanding job, Winona's real ambition is to be a filmmaker. And her romantic life is a mess. When a new lawyer—a blind woman named Sandy Spires—joins the firm and challenges Winona to trust her own creative ideas, Winona is encouraged to try to be more than just a “non-filmmaking filmmaker.” But it eventually becomes clear that the enigmatic Sandy isn't who she said she is. After her real motives are uncovered, Winona begins to understand what it means to take risks in life and in love.

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Editorial Reviews

Benjamin Cheever
There's truth here and many delicate pleasures.
The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
The languors of office life and frustrated dreams are explored in this off-beat first novel by Sheehan (after the short story collection Jack Kerouac Is Pregnant). Winona Bartlett, a 29-year-old would-be filmmaker as well as secretary, is single, lives in a studio apartment with her cat, works for a Manhattan law firm and is dating a man she refers to as "Jeremy the Sincere." Although she is not in love with him, or any part of her life for that matter, she is going through the motions. Promoted from secretary to office manager, she displays appropriate gratitude even if it is a step in the opposite direction of her dream. The promotion, a cash bonus and a handful of perks all seem to come as fringe benefits of her friendship with the firm's newest lawyer, an elegantly beautiful and mysterious blind woman, Sandy Spires. Despite Winona's vague uneasiness about Sandy's overtures and unorthodox requests, she simply goes along. After all, the extra money makes it possible to buy a camera and begin work on her film, tentatively titled The Anxiety of Everyday Objects which is about a woman, well, a lot like Winona. A friendship with Rex, an upstanding young attorney at the firm, finally rouses her conscience and leads her to probe more closely into irregularities at work. The ensuing plot twists present opportunities for the stubbornly na ve heroine to discover just how much integrity she can muster. Sheehan's self-consciously choppy prose and whimsical asides give the novel a halting rhythm, but readers who persevere will find the surprise ending tartly satisfying. 5-city author tour. (Mar.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Sheehan follows up her short story collection, Jack Kerouac Is Pregnant (just reissued by Dalkey Archive Press), with a delightful first novel about a secretary in a small Manhattan law firm. Winona Bartlett's real life takes place in her small apartment, where she lives with her cat, Fruit Bat, and dreams about moving out of the category of "non-filmmaking filmmaker" by producing and directing a movie she plans to name The Anxiety of Everyday Objects. Meanwhile, back at her day job, a mysterious new partner comes on board-a devious, beautifully dressed, oh-so-imperious blind lawyer, Sandy Spires-who encourages Winona to go out and fight for what she wants despite the risks. Good advice, but will Winona take it? Add a love interest (another lawyer at the firm), a bit of somewhat kinky sex (an old boyfriend), and some mysterious goings-on as the firm works on a high-profile divorce case, and you have the makings of a high-spirited, entertaining, and thoroughly satisfying novel. Highly recommended for all public libraries.-Nancy Pearl, Washington Ctr. for the Book, Seattle Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A secretary-but not the world's best. Not even close. Winona Bartlett (Win, to her friends) thinks of her thankless job at the law firm of Grecko Mauster Crill as a form of meditation, when she thinks about it at all, but she doesn't mind fetching coffee or filing. Her real life is about to start any minute, complete with an interesting man and awards for the avant-garde films she makes in her head. Then Sandy Spires, a breathtakingly beautiful, blind lawyer shows up more or less out of nowhere to assist Bill Mauster with a prickly case involving Lisa Box, a bankrupt life-makeover chain. Sandy's handicap hasn't stopped her-in fact, she's a steamroller. Win snaps out of her whimsical daydreaming, fascinated by Sandy's fabulous clothes and reptilian calm. Oops, looks like the receptionist, Lucy Cummings, a frazzled single mom, is going to have to start showing up on time. And Nancy Hobbs, the eccentric office manager, is going to get demoted, thanks to Sandy's maneuvering. Nancy's responsibilities will now be Win's-not that Win wants to work that hard. After all, she has a social life of sorts: Rex, the handsome young associate, has a crush on her, though she's dating Sylvester, a movie producer with artistic pretensions. She's permitted him to fondle her knee, but is he the man of her dreams? She might as well let Fruit Bat, her long-suffering feline companion, decide. Why is life so fundamentally strange anyway? Hey, it's going to get a whole lot stranger when Win buys a video camera and secretly tapes Sandy's clandestine meetings with the opposition in the Lisa Box case. There's something to be said for paying attention every now and again. Deliciously wacky debut novel from the authorof Jack Kerouac is Pregnant (stories: 1994) and winner of a Pushcart Prize. Hilarious, sly, sharply observed, and one of a kind-more, please. Agent: Ellen Levine/Trident Media Group
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780142003701
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 2/24/2004
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 4.98 (w) x 10.60 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Aurelie Sheehan is an assistant professor of fiction at the University of Arizona and the author of the critically acclaimed short story collection Jack Kerouac Is Pregnant. She's worked in a variety of jobs, some suspiciously secretarial, and has received a Pushcart Prize, a Carmargo Fellowship, and the Jack Kerouac Literary Award.

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Table of Contents

Sincerity In which the heroine establishes herself 1
Art In which Winona struggles with craft 79
Sex In which Winona is tied up by a tawdry fiend 143
Innocence In which all is revealed 213
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