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Use Me
     

Use Me

3.8 7
by Elissa Schappell
 

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

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.

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

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780688165574
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
03/01/2000
Edition description:
1 ED
Pages:
336
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 1.09(d)

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...

What People are Saying About This

Jennifer Egan
Use Me is a sharp, beautiful, and off-kilter debut. Elissa Schappell trains her unwavering gaze on life's most complex offerings--sex, death, parenthood--with bravery and (best of all) with high amusement.
Helen Schulman
What's most startling about Elissa Schappell's brilliant debut is not the impressive elegance of her prose, nor the frightening acuity of her observations, but the exhilarating humor she employs when exposing the shameful secrets that fuel both grief and love.
Amy Hempel
These linked stories share an extremely appealing voice--mordant, passionate, vulnerable, sly--a voice that sounds lived. Elissa Schappell is very good company.
— (Amy Hempel, author of Tumble Home)
David Gates
Elissa Schappell has a wonderful eye and ear, she's smart as hell, and she's got the nerve to caper on that edge where you can't quite tell the appalling from the sidesplitting. These astringent family romances broke my heart so entertainingly that only looking back did I see what dark places she'd danced me through.
— (David Gates, author of Preston Falls)
Rick Moody
Elissa Schappell's take on grief, desire, death and dying, and her inappropriate fixations on kissing teenage boys and fathers, oh yeah, and nuns...is original and funny, and winning. Sometimes, too, it's painful, as all great literature should be. She's a challenge and a star.
Whitney Otto
I love this book. Use Me is about girls, boys, moms, dads, friends, enemies, sex, living, dying and everything in between. It is hilarious and touching. I promise you've never read anything quite like it.
Fay Weldon
She is just so good. All the others can go home. She can stay.

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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Use Me 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is like a breath of fresh air! From the beginning to the end, it has it all! I absolutely loved it!
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.