Use Me

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Overview

The exquisitely artful fiction debut of Elissa Schappell: a novel told in ten stories that resonate with the most profound experiences in the life of a young woman—friendship and rivalry, the love for a man, the birth of a child, and the death of a father.

Use Me explores the fierce bonds between close friends, fathers and daughters, mothers and children, and the underlying desire and loss inherent in these ever evolving relationships. As she grows from a rebellious adolescent ...

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2000 Hardcover New This book is new. DJ slightly faded. Edgewear top of spine. In this artful fiction debut, a "Vanity Fair" columnist presents stories that resonate with the ... most profound experiences in the lives of young women--friendship and rivalry, the love for a man, the birth of a child, and the death of a father. Read more Show Less

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Overview

The exquisitely artful fiction debut of Elissa Schappell: a novel told in ten stories that resonate with the most profound experiences in the life of a young woman—friendship and rivalry, the love for a man, the birth of a child, and the death of a father.

Use Me explores the fierce bonds between close friends, fathers and daughters, mothers and children, and the underlying desire and loss inherent in these ever evolving relationships. As she grows from a rebellious adolescent in the preppy suburbs of Delaware to a sexually fraught and reluctant adult in New York City, Evie Wakefield struggles to connect and negotiate intimacy with the men in her life: Chas Wakefield, her larger-than-life father, who has cheated cancer for years; Billy, her sexy, responsibility—shy musician husband; and Charlie, her needy young son.

All the while she attempts to keep up with her best friend and sometime competitor, the sophisticated and reckless Mary Beth McEvoy, who seems to draw to her just what she wants, and holds a mirror to Evie's darkest desires. Use Me vividly captures the undeniable truths of loyalty and betrayal, of heartbreak and sexual yearning, as evoked by a young writer of devastating gifts.

Evie and Mary Beth: two women who could hardly be more different—or more deeply sympathetic. They could be the light and the dark in one person, but in fact they are best friends, occasional competitors, reflections of what's missing from each other's lives. Evie is emotionally articulate, painfully sensitive, and provoked by a desire to inhabit the hearts of those she loves most—her father, sick with cancer; her musician husband; her needful young son. Mary Beth is sharp, sophisticated, and utterly beguiling; the kind of woman who draws to her exactly what she desires (including, in one troubling evening, Evie's father). Perhaps calculated, but certainly careless with her friend's affections, Mary Beth makes her own life seem effortless. And for Evie, she serves as a reminder of the innocent sexual and emotional freedom she longs to recapture.

As her father slips from her grasp, Evie falls into conflict with those she should be pulling close and tries to acknowledge her own weaknesses in the face of doing the right thing. What's revealed in these stories are the undeniable truths of loyalty and betrayal, of heartbreak and sexual yearning, evoked by a young writer of devastating gifts.Evie and Mary Beth: two women who could hardly be more different—or more deeply sympathetic. They could be the light and the dark in one person, but in fact they are best friends, occasional competitors, reflections of what's missing from each other's lives. Evie is emotionally articulate, painfully sensitive, and provoked by a desire to inhabit the hearts of those she loves most—her father, sick with cancer; her musician husband; her needful young son. Mary Beth is sharp, sophisticated, and utterly beguiling; the kind of woman who draws to her exactly what she desires (including, in one troubling evening, Evie's father). Perhaps calculated, but certainly careless with her friend's affections, Mary Beth makes her own life seem effortless. And for Evie, she serves as a reminder of the innocent sexual and emotional freedom she longs to recapture.

As her father slips from her grasp, Evie falls into conflict with those she should be pulling close and tries to acknowledge her own weaknesses in the face of doing the right thing. What's revealed in these stories are the undeniable truths of loyalty and betrayal, of heartbreak and sexual yearning, evoked by a young writer of devastating gifts.

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Editorial Reviews

Glamour
Fans of The Girls Guide to Hunting and Fishing will devour this grittier, grabbier take on the path from addled adolescence to equally perplexing parenthood...Schappell has created an irresistible fictional girlfriend in Evie Wakefield.
Elle
It's the rock-hard honesty beneath the gem-bright hilarity that make this a debut collection to savor.
Vanity Fair
Delightful...out-and-out literary...Schappell uses her Spy cleverness to cut through the darkness.
Mademoiselle
Witty and poignant.
Cathleen Schine
Elissa Schappell's Use Me is a wonderfully satisfying book, the kind of coming-of-age novel that somehow fulfills the expectations of the genre in unexpected ways. Schappell is a comic writer with impeccable timing, and Use Me is quick and entertaining. At the same time, this first novel is propelled by an unexpected sense of urgency.
The New York Times Book Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780688165574
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 3/1/2000
  • Edition description: 1 ED
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 1.09 (d)

Meet the Author

Elissa Schappell writes the "Hot Type" cohmm for Vanity Fair and is a founding editor of the new literary magazine Tin House. She received her MFA from the Creative Writing Program at New York University. She has been a senior editor at The Paris Review and has contributed to numerous magazines, including GQ, Vogue, Bomb, Bookforum, and Spin. She lives in Brooklyn.

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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One



Eau-De-Vie



"Pouilly-Fumé, Chardonnay, Pouilly-Fuissé, Sancerre." I chant my mantra in the backseat of our white rental car, Josephine, as we speed through the Loire Valley countryside, past chateaus and vineyards and endless rows of grapevines.

It's not fair that all my friends get to be normal and go to the beach, and I have to go to France and be a total Albino. I barely ever see the sun because my parents are constantly dragging me and Dee through every museum, church, and restaurant in France. We spent two whole days in the Louvre!

On the road I lean as much of my body out the window as I can without attracting my mother's attention. At least today we'll be outside, not during peak tanning hours, but God, I'll take it. I love that feeling of sun soaking into my bones. My dad says the sun turns the grapes' blood into sugar. "You can taste the sun in the grapes," he says, "the way you can taste dirt in a tomato."

Dad is speeding because we're racing to make the tour of some vineyard where they produce a prized Pouilly-Furn.6 (whoop-de-do) and a brandy called Pear William (ditto the whoop-de-do). My mother has been dying to go to this chateau place ever since she "discovered" it in Gourmet magazine. You know, she showed me that picture three times before we left. Each time I saw the same thing: a bunch of pear trees with wine bottles roped to their branches, and inside each bottle a tiny pear was supposedly growing . I tried to make out the pears. I never could, but I guess a magazine wouldn't lie about a thing like that.

My little sister iseating a yellow pear out of a handkerchief.My mother says that's how the French eat them. Their skins are so soft they bruise brown when you touch them and rip open so easily they nearly dissolve in your mouth. Big deal. All I know is Dee is getting the whole backseat sticky and drawing flies. As far as I can tell, anything good draws flies.

Dee eats only fruit, bread and butter, and pommes frites. Oh, sure, she'll say, "Yes please, yes please," when my parents offer her poached salmon in béchamel sauce or foie gras on toast. Dee always says yes-she wouldn't want to disappoint you-but Dee, she won't eat one mouthful, and because she's so cute, so small and blonde and pretty, with her big blue doll-baby eyes, she gets away with murder.

My dad's going to put us into a ditch if he doesn't slow down. It doesn't help that he's got his arm around my mother, who is wearing her Jackie 0 sunglasses and a black and purple silk scarf tied around her long blonde hair like a gypsy. I'm just thankful she's not wearing her toe ring. I can't wear an anklet because "it looks tacky," but she can wear a toe ring. Explain that to me. She's just showing off because she has feet like the statue of Venus de Milo. My dad pointed this out in the Louvre. "Look," he said, dragging us over to inspect the goddess of love's feet. "See, the second toe is slightly longer than the big toe, it's perfection."

He even made Mom take her shoe off in the museum and compare. She acted like she was embarrassed, you know "Oh, Chas, honey, stop stop"-but she did it. For Dad. I bet she's sorry now she didn't pack that toe ring. It's not like she'd need it. France is like Spanish fly to my parents. Ever since we got off the plane they've been pawing each other. More than usual. Which is saying something believe me.

Dad looks mostly normal. His black hair is a little on the long side, but he's dressed in a regular Levi's denim work shirt, jeans, and the sneaks he wears to cut the grass. The only problem is that my father, who has shaved every day of his life, even on weekends, is now growing this horrible little black beard for my mother. With her head scarf and his beard, they look like pirates who've escaped the suburbs, taking me and Dee along as hostages. It doesn't help that my dad is also wearing these black wraparound sunglasses that my mother bought at a gas station. I've never seen my dad in sunglasses. It's creepy. I know he's wearing shades in case we get pulled over for speeding, so the cop can't see his eyes are all bloodshot from drinking wine at lunch. He also reeks of cigarettes because he and Mom smoked Gauloises after lunch. The thing is, my parents don't even smoke!

"We're getting close," Dad says, and leans over to kiss my mother on the mouth. Josephine jerks to the right, and Dad accidentally flips on the windshield wipers for only about the hundredth time. He shouts, "Jesus Christ, I'd like to strangle the guy who engineered this car!"

Dad should have both hands on the wheel, seeing as how he drank almost a whole bottle of red wine at lunch. Mom had just half a glass, it gives her a headache. Red wine and frog's legs, you can't have one without the other, according to MY father, who it seems has read every book about France ever written, so he must know best.

My dad is on a quest to cram culture into us, so we don't have to pick it up late in life likehad to. See, Dad never went to Europe as a kid. It wasn't just that Grandpa was a plumber and so there wasn't lots of money for travel, the family never went anywhere, except to the lake, or hunting...

Read More Show Less

First Chapter

"Pouilly-Fume, Chardonnay, Pouilly-Fuisse, Sancerre." I chant my mantra in the backseat of our white rental car, Josephine, as we speed through the Loire Valley countryside, past chateaus and vineyards and endless rows of grapevines.

It's not fair that all my friends get to be normal and go the beach, and I have to go to France and be a total albino. I barely even see the sun because my parents are constantly dragging me and Dee through every museum and church and restaurant in France. We spent two whole days in the Louvre!

On the road I lean as much of my body out the window as I can without attracting my mother's attention. At least today we'll be outside, not during peak tanning hours, but God, I'll take it. I love that feeling of sun soaking into my bones. My father says the sun turns the grapes' blood into sugar. "You can taste the sun in the grapes," he says, "the way you can taste dirt in a tomato."

My dad is speeding because we're racing to make the tour of some vineyard where they produce a prized Pouilly-Fume (whoop-de-do) and a brandy called Pear William (ditto the whoop-de-do). My mother has been dying to go to this chateau place ever since she "discovered" it in Gourmet magazine. You know, she showed me that picture three times before we left. Each time I saw the same thing: a bunch of pear trees with wine bottles roped to their branches, and inside each bottle a tiny pear was supposedly growing. I tried to make out the pears. I never could, but I guess a magazine wouldn't lie about a thing like that.

My little sister is eating a yellow pear out of a handkerchief. My mother says that's how the French eat them. Their skins are so soft they bruise brown when you touch them and rip open so easily they nearly dissolve in your mouth. Whatever. All I know is Dee is getting the whole backseat sticky and drawing flies. As far as I can tell, anything good draws flies.

Dee eats only fruit, bread and butter, and pommes frites. Oh, sure, she'll say, "Yes please, yes please," when my parents offer her poached salmon in bechamel sauce or foie gras on toast. Dee always says yes---she wouldn't want to disappoint you---but Dee, she won't eat one mouthful, and because she's so cute, so small and blonde and pretty, with her big blue doll-baby eyes, she gets away with murder.

My dad's going to put us into a ditch if he doesn't slow down. It doesn't help that he's got his arm around my mother, who is wearing her Jackie O sunglasses, a black & purple silk scarf tied around her long blonde hair like a gypsy. I'm just thankful she's not wearing her toe ring. I can't wear an anklet because "it looks tacky," but she can wear a toe ring. Explain that to me. She's just showing off because she has feet like the statue of Venus de Milo. My father pointed this out in the Louvre. "Look," he said, dragging us over to inspect the goddess of love's feet. "See, the second toe is slightly longer than the big toe, it's perfection."

He even made Mom take her shoe off in the museum and compare. She acted like she was embarrassed, you know---"Oh, Chas, honey, stop stop"---but she did it. For Dad. I bet she's sorry now she didn't pack that toe ring. It's not like she'd need it. France is like Spanish fly to my parents. Ever since we got off the plane they've been pawing each other. More than usual. Which is saying something, believe me.

My father looks mostly normal. His black hair is a little on the long side, but he's dressed in a regular Levi's denim work shirt, jeans, and the sneaks he wears to cut the grass. The only problem is that my father, who has shaved every day of his life, even on weekends, is now growing this horrible little black beard for my mother. With her head scarf and his beard, they look like pirates who've escaped the suburbs, taking me and Dee along as hostages. It doesn't help that my dad is also wearing these black wraparound sunglasses that my mother bought at a gas station. I've never seen my father in sunglasses. It's creepy. I know he's wearing shades in case we get pulled over for speeding, so the cop can't see his eyes are all bloodshot from drinking wine at lunch. He also reeks of cigarettes because he and Mom smoked Gauloises after lunch. The thing is, my parents don't even smoke!

"We're getting close," my father says, and leans over to kiss my mother on the mouth. Josephine jerks to the right, and Dad accidentally flips on the windshield wipers for only about the hundredth time. He shouts, "God, I'd like to strangle the guy who engineered this car!"

My father should have both hands on the wheel, seeing as how he drank almost a whole bottle of red wine at lunch. Mom had just half a glass, it gives her a headache. Red wine and frog's legs, you can't have one without the other, according to my father, who it seems has read every book about France ever written, so he must know best.

My father is on a quest to cram culture into us, so we don't have to pick it up late in life like he had to. See, Dad never went to Europe as a kid. It wasn't just that Grandpa was a plumber and so there wasn't lots of money for travel; the family never went anywhere, except to the lake, or hunting.

Dad says his father and mother never traveled because Grandpa was uneducated and feared the unknown. It was the same reason he forbade my grandmother to have a job or drive, and why my dad could never learn to ride a bike.

Of course, my father, he felt he wasn't doing his fatherly duty unless his little girls saw every pane of stained glass, every splinter of the One True Cross, every crappy druid stone formation, every scenic panoramic view, and anything that could be considered "art" in all of France. I don't know which is worse. At least at a lake I could lay out.

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Reading Group Guide

Introduction
A girl's coming of age--whether it is in Margaret Mead's Samoa or Jane Austen's England--has always included an initiation into sexuality and a loss of innocence in exchange for experience. Along with these timeless elements, where and when a woman grows up profoundly influences how she makes the passage. Elissa Schappell's wickedly funny, erotic, and emotionally astute Use Me takes a fresh look at coming of age in the preppy suburbs of Delaware during the final decades of the 20th century.Her protagonist is Evie Wakefield, evolving into womanhood as she falls in love, has a child, loses a father, and feels the betrayal of a friend. While Schappell spills the secrets of sexual experimentation and alcohol abuse, she also conveys a sadder truth: coming of age today is more a private than a societal rite, and is perhaps a more painful and confusing time of life than ever before.Despite Evie's lack of social support, she does have passionate relationships: a deep connection to her father, who has beaten cancer for years; the friendship of sophisticated and reckless New Yorker, Mary Beth McEvoy; her marriage to Billy, a sexy, irresponsible musician; and her mothering of Charlie, the son she holds perhaps too tightly. In exploring these ties, Schappell raises some provocative issues. Does a girl's father foreshadow her choice of lovers and husbands? What aspects of our lives do we choose, which are our fates, and how can we know the difference? How do we face the death of a parent, and how does it change us? And what about our friends? Does Mary Beth mirror a darker side of Evie, one that she is afraid to express? From its enigmatic title to itshaunting final line, Evie's story resonates with truth about the journey from birth to death as we search for meaning...as we hunger for comfort and love.

Questions for Discussion

  • The first story in the book, "Eau-de-Vie," sets up Evie's loss of innocence and sexual initiation. How would you describe Evie's relationship to her father? For example, what is going on when he puts his younger daughter on his shoulders and doesn't touch Evie? What do you make of the symbolism of the title, "Eau-de-Vie," and of the pear in the bottle?
  • "Novice Bitch" introduces Mary Beth McEvoy. How do you think Mary Beth's home life has influenced her sexual behavior? Do you like Mary Beth despite her behavior, or do you like her because of it? Why does Evie like her?
  • In "Sisters of the Sound," Evie goes on a retreat to a convent. What is her motivation for going? Why is she so upset by the priest's quotation of Sartre, "If there is no God, then everything is permitted"?
  • Elisabeth Kübler Ross, in her famous 1969 book, On Death and Dying, said a person passes through different emotional stages when facing death. What are the stages that Evie goes through in dealing with her father's illness and death?
  • The title story "Use Me" is one of the most sexually provocative in the book. What motivates Evie's behavior? What happens when Evie "confesses" to Michael about her sexual proficiency? Do you think she is telling the truth?
  • Sex is frankly described in Use Me. Why do you think Elissa Schappell included these scenes so frequently? Do you think high school students should read this book? Why or why not? About the Author: Elissa Schappell writes the "Hot Type" column for Vanity Fair and is a founding editor of the new literary magazine Tin House. She received her MFA from the Creative Writing Program at New York University. She has been a senior editor at The Paris Review and has contributed to numerous magazines, including GQ, Vogue, Bomb, Bookforum, and Spin. She lives in Brooklyn.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 21, 2000

    Fantastic

    This book is like a breath of fresh air! From the beginning to the end, it has it all! I absolutely loved it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2000

    A Knockout

    Love and death, sex, family, friendship, parenthood ¿ everything is covered here and is done so with true artistic subtlty. This is a real writer at work, and the best part of it is: you do not see the work. There is not one iota of pretentiousness, just honesty. And not one wasted word either. Where less talented writers would go off the deep end, Schappell never loses her footing. You will never forget Evie and Mary Beth...you will take them them into your life. This is one knockout of a book and the author is a major talent.

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