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"Behind every great man there's a great woman . . . and in Noxon's telling, behind every great woman there's a charming, deeply conflicted guy (sometimes holding a very expensive handbag). Hilarious and unflinching, Plus One is a funny, sharply observed, heartbreaking look at love, power, and happily-ever-after in Hollywood."—Jennifer Weiner, author of Who Do You Love, The Next Best Thing , and Good in Bed
New in paperback after a successful run in hardcover, Christopher Noxon’s debut novel Plus One is a comedic take on breadwinning women and caretaking men in contemporary Los Angeles. Alex Sherman-Zicklin is a midlevel marketing executive whose wife’s fourteenth attempt at a TV pilot is produced, ordered to series, and awarded an Emmy. Overnight, she’s sucked into a mad show-business vortex and he's tasked with managing their new high-profile Hollywood lifestyle. He falls in with a posse of Plus Ones, men who are married to women whose success, income, and public recognition far surpasses their own. What will it take for him to regain the foreground in his own life?
Christopher Noxon is an accomplished journalist who has written for the New Yorker , Details , Los Angeles Magazine , Salon , and the New York Times Magazine ; his first book, Rejuvenile: Kickball, Cartoons, Cupcakes, and the Reinvention of the American Grown-Up (Crown), earned him interviews on the Colbert Report and Good Morning America and generated features in USA Today, the Wall Street Journal , and Talk of the Nation. Noxon happens to be married to an acclaimed TV writer/producer and does the school chauffeuring for their three children, so he knows whereof he speaks regarding Plus Ones. He lives in Los Angeles, California.
|Publisher:||Prospect Park Books|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 0.90(d)|
About the Author
Christopher Noxon is an accomplished journalist who has written for such publications as The New Yorker , Details , Los Angeles Magazine , Salon , and The New York Times Magazine. His first book, Rejuvenile: Kickball, Cartoons, Cupcakes, and the Reinvention of the American Grown-Up (Crown), earned him interviews on such shows as The Colbert Report and Good Morning America and generated features in USA Today , The Wall Street Journal , and Talk of the Nation ; Ira Glass of This American Life called the book “an eye-opener.” Noxon happens to be married to a top TV writer/producer and does the school chauffeuring for their three children, so he knows whereof he speaks regarding Plus Ones. He lives in Los Angeles.
Read an Excerpt
By Christopher Noxon
Prospect Park BooksCopyright © 2015 Christopher Noxon
All rights reserved.
Alex pulled the invitation out of his breast pocket and laid it on his lap, admiring once again how the lettering danced across the creamy cardstock, the gold metallic script bunched up tightly to fit in the allotted space: FIGGY SHERMAN-ZICKLIN. How the in-laws had harrumphed when he and Figgy had announced, way back when, their plans to hyphenate—and to further flout custom by putting her last name in the showy cleanup spot. Because who said they couldn't? Everything was up for grabs, and SHERMAN-ZICKLIN had a better ring to it than ZICKLIN-SHERMAN. Okay, it was a mouthful. And sure, it did kind of sound like a pharmaceutical conglomerate. But no, the kids would not get hand cramps every time they wrote their name on a school worksheet.
No one was harrumphing now, were they? Here she was, FIGGY SHERMAN-ZICKLIN, nominated for Best Comedy in the roman-numeral-whatever Primetime Emmy Awards. And here he was, the soft shaygetz SHERMAN at the center of all those hard, glottal, zingy, Semitic consonants, gliding along in a chauffeured Town Car through a camera-ready L.A. afternoon.
It was crazy, all of it, more than Alex could begin to get any sort of reasonable handle on. The Emmys weren't real; they came from inside the TV. He was pretty sure they were animated—they occurred in a make-believe world of fictional, distant-realm characters, ladies with shiny shoulders and men with faces three sizes too big for their heads. The Emmys may not have been quite as fictional as, say, the Oscars, but they were still plenty pretend, best viewed at home with wine and pizza and a gay or two for color commentary.
Barely fourteen months ago, Alex was the sensible one with a real job and Figgy was a fingernail-chewing, sporadically employed comedy writer who spent her days in a Cuban bakery drinking carrot juice until her teeth turned orange while banging out pilot scripts everyone liked but no one ever made. Until, miraculously, someone did. Her eleventh pilot, a dark and dirty dramedy about a housewife who runs a prostitution ring out of a scrapbooking shop, was picked up by a premium-cable network looking to "make some noise." Now she was in Valentino and he was arm candy.
"Have I got lipstick on my teeth?" Figgy said, peering into a compact. "Oh God—I'm terrifying. I'm a sea cow. Or a manatee. Whichever one. I'm a pre-op transsexual. I'm a fucking tranny sea cow. God!"
"Fig, stop," said Alex, scooting over and giving her thigh a squeeze, feeling the silver silk rub against her Spanx with a synthetic squeak. "You're gorgeous. Great looking. And you said it yourself—nobody looks at the writers anyway."
"True," she sighed, snapping the mirror shut. "We're the bathroom break. Fuck it. Why are we bothering with this at all? Why are we wasting the babysitter? Let's commandeer this bad boy and go for burritos!"
Was she serious? Would she really rather spackle the interior of a Town Car with carne asada than go to the actual Emmys? He wasn't entirely sure. She was wildly impulsive—she delighted in abandoning full shopping carts, dashing off on interstate road trips, and otherwise zigging off course at the last possible minute. It was Figgy who decided to call off the big formal wedding in favor of a civil ceremony that had all the pomp and romance of a driver's license renewal. Alex didn't regret it for a second—he'd had no desire to stand under a chuppah with three hundred of her family's temple friends and his crazy goy relatives—but for the Emmys, he wanted the full experience.
The truth was, Alex wouldn't miss this for anything. Figgy grew up on the funky, lower-rent peripheries of show business—her mom was a once-fabulous, now-cranky Hollywood party girl who'd married four times, twice to agents and currently to a Bronx-born hustler who made a mint in the seventies selling videotape supplies; Figgy had been to the Emmys herself when she was nine, famously falling asleep in Cloris Leachman's lap. But for Alex, all this was new. He'd grown up two hours and many worlds away in a mountain hippie hamlet near the Ojai Valley. He got comic mileage out of his upbringing now—people loved hearing about his Birkenstock lesbian mom, the llama who lived on their land, and the Indian shaman who shacked up on the back porch. But the reality was a lot lonelier and more chaotic than he let on. He didn't like to talk about it. Anyway, he'd gotten out, left all that behind, worked though his issues.
And now here he was, actual Alex in a real-life Town Car, with its impossibly immaculate exterior and musky oil smell and walnut inlays and immaculate black carpet so soft and lush that he wanted to rub his face in it. He pressed a button and the armrest slid back with a pleasing hiss. Beneath it he found a tin of candied almonds, a chilled bottle of Dom with a note from Figgy's agent, Jess, and the fall issue of Elite Spirit, a glossy brick of a magazine devoted to mini-jets and maxi-wristwatches.
The man at the wheel swiveled around and produced a card. Devon Winchester, Executive Transport.
"Well hello there, Devon Winchester," Alex said with a smile. "That's quite a name. You from Windsor Castle?"
"No sir," he said. "Inglewood."
Alex learned that Devon had two boys and a girl, but he and their mom weren't together, owing to some legal trouble Devon got into a few years ago, but he was dealing much better now and making some music and maybe he should put on his CD? Some serious jams. Gonna blow up. Maybe they could use a song on the show?
"Absolutely, put that on," Alex said, glad they were relating. Maybe they'd be friends.
"So you excited for tonight?" Devon asked. "I shouldn't be saying this, but I freaking love your show. Girlfriend and I binge-watched the whole season on demand in one night—up 'til 4 a.m. Could not even stop. Shit's crack."
Figgy leaned forward and craned her face over the seat. "Well thank you very much, Devon," she said. "So great you've actually seen it."
"Aw no way—it's the lady's show?" Devon put his face up to the mirror and smiled brightly. "I didn't realize. All my papers say is I'm driving the EP of Tricks—and it's you? No way! I like that a lot."
"Well thank you very much," Figgy said, as Devon laughed and banged his fist on the steering wheel. "Not that I have a chance in hell of actually winning."
"You never know," Devon said. "You watch. You could be going home with some metal tonight."
Alex sat up in his seat. "We're just happy for the party."
He'd been parroting the same line all week—it seemed like the thing to say. He'd checked the blogs and read the trades; the official line put the odds of a Tricks win at thirty to one. And that was factoring in the new voting rules and a palpable anti-network, anti-establishment mood among Academy membership. No comedy with women in lead roles had won since Sex and the City, and everyone knew that was really a show about gay men. It seemed to Alex that the whole enterprise was just another big corporate sham—deeply sexist, wildly political and not at all friendly to Figgy's frank, abrasive, lady-centric take on the world. Tricks was a token show, singled out as proof the industry valued women—even if it excluded them from the top jobs or overall deals or benefits that were the industry's genuine rewards.
But that didn't mean Alex couldn't hope. He knew how deeply uncool it was to give even half a shit about the Emmys, but the truth was he stupidly, desperately hoped for a win. It would mean so much. For Figgy and the show, obviously, but also for him. He couldn't help feeling like winning would validate their whole mismatched-but-mysteriously-right partnership. Him, the agreeable, even-keeled, happy-go-lucky husband; her, the opinionated, emotional, whip-smart, crazy-creative wife. He pictured her climbing up to the mic, clutching her chest and pouring her heart out to him, tearing up in a schmaltzy "you complete me" moment, like Oprah rhapsodizing about Stedman's "grace and dignity."
"You're sweet, Devon," Figgy cut in, fishing around for an Altoid. "But all I'm hoping for tonight is some nice shampoo in the swag bag."
Then she stretched out her arms, entwining her palms and twisting them around in a fancy yoga flex. Alex watched her stretch, unsure how to read the body language. He couldn't tell what she really thought. She'd been dismissive and super casual ever since the nominations were announced, rolling her eyes when he asked if she'd written a speech and making a pew-pew sound when his mom told her to make room on the mantle.
Alex, meanwhile, could barely contain his excitement. A few days before the awards, he paid a visit to Sergio's Formalwear, a storefront a few doors down from their vet. It was a musty, overstocked shop, and Sergio turned out to be a pudgy Filipino guy who, after helping Alex up on a stool and going at him with his measuring tape, barely made a peep when informed that the tux wasn't for a quinceanera or a wedding or some other ceremony that marked the quaint rituals of mere mortals; this was for the Emmys.
"So you're on the TV?" Sergio asked, motioning to a wall of headshots picturing female wrestlers, seventies child actors, and puppets. "You have picture?"
"No, not me," Alex said. "My wife. She's up for best comedy. Very big."
"So she's on the TV?"
"Not her, no," he said. "She's a writer. It's her words—her whole world. She makes the show."
"So no picture," said Sergio, measuring his inseam with a little more roughness than Alex felt was entirely necessary.
The tux fit well enough, even if the first words to pop into Alex's mind when he put it on were: dickhead maitre d'. Even so, with the dress shoes that Figgy picked up special for the occasion, Alex figured he looked decent enough—if not dapper, at least a passable partner to Figgy, who had secured the loaner Valentino through her costume department, with pleats and cinches and underwires and all sorts of enhancing lifts and supports.
"Be outside and ready to get us, okay—maybe circle around?" Figgy said, as the car funneled through traffic. "We may flee early, after we go down in flames to that ABC crap about the lawyers. I'd like to get home early and let the babysitter go."
And there it was again: the yoga flex. What was that?
Then the Town Car lurched to a stop and the door was flung open by a man with an earbud and a crewcut. Alex hopped out and looked up at the Shrine, a massive auditorium adorned with Moorish spires that extended upward like mounds of soft serve. Helicopters hovered above towering banks of bleachers. The entrance was flooded with a saturated glare that turned everyone into players on a soundstage. Everywhere there was lipstick and cleavage, tiny waists and gleaming dentistry. Welcome to Toontown. It really was a cartoon world.
Alex straightened up as the assembled fans and photographers zeroed in on them. He felt a sudden, palpable rush of longing and excitement. He adjusted his sunglasses and ducked his head down, prolonging the moment. For this brief second, he was someone theyd come to see—not a star, obviously, but maybe the sitcom best friend, or the host of a PBS wildlife series.
"Hey!" Figgy called. She was still in the car, reaching out and tugging at the tail of his jacket. "Little help?"
Alex swiveled and offered his hand. Figgy bounded up and plowed into the crowd, immediately falling into what appeared to be a strictly understood protocol. The actors and nominees flitted around the edges of the press lineup, pollinating at ripe spots along the way. Meanwhile the unfamous were funneled into the faster-moving current at the center.
"Come on," said Figgy over her shoulder, sticking her elbow back and guiding his hand around her inner arm. "Squire me."
Alex gave her a squeeze and started to join the procession, but within a few steps, Figgy was intercepted. In a flurry of squeals, a press agent from the network introduced herself as "one of the Melissas," issued a command on her walkie-talkie, uncoupled Figgy from Alex, and herded her away into the Tricks posse: five writers, two network executives, and Katherine Pool, the Ozarks-born, Yale-educated actress who played Toni, the housewifeturned-madam.
"Figgy honey—don't you clean up nice?" Katherine exclaimed, pulling her in for a stiff embrace. "Heels even! I don't think I've ever seen you out of those marvelous clogs!"
Figgy grimaced and poked out one foot. "I've already got blisters. But look at you! That dress? Gorgeous."
Katherine made a little curtsey, and the two of them headed toward the press line, all smiles, no visible sign whatsoever of the epic power plays they'd waged against each other over the past year. Katherine was an incredible actress—she had a wide-open, plate-shaped face that appeared to be constantly churning on some deep, mysterious thought—but she was famously difficult. Most of it was standard diva stuff—lateness, rudeness, a refusal to wear anything that didn't show off her yoga-toned arms—but her big problem revolved around the show itself. She spent much of the season complaining that her dialogue was substandard and out-of-character and, worst of all, there wasn't enough of it.
Alex made his way into the crowd, j oining a lane of traffic just behind the press line. After a few steps, he realized he'd fallen in with the wife pack, a cluster of smooth-skinned, spooked-looking ladies from the leafier districts of the 310. He recognized a few as spouses of guys on Figgy's staff—they were stay-at-home moms, mostly; they met up for coffee or play dates when production kept their husbands at work until all hours. But just as he'd avoided them at work parties and ignored their occasional emails, he now took a few steps sideways out of their wake.
He didn't dislike them—not at all! They were all nice enough, and of course he had nothing but respect for their choices as women and mothers. But he wasn't one of them. His life maybe wasn't as over-the-top as all this, but it was at least vaguely creative. Alex was an account manager for BestSelf, a boutique ad shop that worked with nonprofits—or as described by his boss, the aggro-smarmy Jeff Kanter, BestSelf was "a values-driven agency." At the moment, Alex was working on testicular cancer, organic school lunches, and shaken babies. He took pride in finding clever ways to employ the dark arts of marketing for righteous causes. Nonprofits didn't bring in big money, but Alex did okay, well enough to have covered them through the lean years. He'd also taken full advantage of the agency's "family-friendly flextime" policy and health insurance, working the system to get six months of paternity leave when the kids were born.
Close to the entrance to the hall, Alex stopped on the red carpet and stood on his tippy toes, peering over the coiffed heads. He spotted the Tricks crew at the end of the press line, Katherine huddled with Melissa Rivers and Figgy giving a thumbs-up to a reporter for Slavic TV. He caught up with Figgy at the towering front doors of the auditorium and led her inside.
Figgy leaned close. "Makeup check," she whispered. "Am I smudged? That guy from Access Hollywood was practically licking me. Have I got monster face?"
"No monster face," he said, looping a strand of her stiffly ironed hair over her ear. "You're perfect. Breathe. And breathe again."
Figgy smiled, the two of them having recently decided that a yoga studio near their house was obviously attempting to one-up and out-do mere breathers with a big sign out front that commanded: "Breathe. And Breathe Again."
"You know I love you, right?" she said.
"Right back at you."
Excerpted from Plus One by Christopher Noxon. Copyright © 2015 Christopher Noxon. Excerpted by permission of Prospect Park Books.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
There is utopia, dystopia and living-breathing-now. “Plus One,” authored by Christopher Noxon offers a hysterical peek into gender and role reversals nestled in marriage situated in Hollywood and LA. Enter into the marital life of Figgy, Alex and their two children Sam and Sylvie. Their story begins on the red carpet when Alex discovers he is no longer captain of the family ship. Alex is a “Plus One.” A person representing less significance than a chair filler. The red carpet transitions readers onto the yellow brick road in the land of domestic responsibility where Alex abandons work deadlines and misplaced kudos and discovers French skinny jeans, female butcher-bloggers, Real Estate upgrades, tanning beds, hollywood households, and his own self worth. Alex and Figgy go through honest and unique versions of what all married couples go through. Financial equity and dependency, shared decision-making, uniting different socio-cultural backgrounds, parenting, and the stolen moments when one tries to reinvent oneself to earn society’s respect toward stay-at-home persons. While many of us undergo this, most of us lack the ability to laugh at ourselves as we foil and toil away on this course. What makes Noxon’s work devourable is his ability to create cariactures voices and dialogue in an absolutely hysterical fashion. I have not laughed out loud during reading in YEARS until I spent time with this book. “Plus One” will shove over the marriage takes a beating books on my shelf because rather than beat up marriage he takes some shots and leaves us knowing that in spite of mistakes and misconceptions our relationships are always repairable if we love one another.