Everybody Rise

Everybody Rise is a lifestyle-porn New York adventure with a likeable protagonist, a middle-class girl pretending to the world of deb balls and multimillion-dollar getaway cottages.

I love lifestyle and manners novels, with a blatant escapist love for the gorgeous, the exclusive and the expensive, as well as a more socialilogical fascinationg with how one expresses class markers and identifies what matchmaking martiarchs in British novels always call “like-minded people”. (See also: Julian Fellowes’ Snobs, Kevin Kwan’s China Rich Girlfriend, and Candace Bushnell’s One Fifth Avenue.) Everybody Rise has both, with long descriptions of a summer cabin, and then explanations of a guest’s duties: be amusing without stealing the spotlight, play the correct sports, sail capably in whichever position is vacant, and so forth.

A few years ago, I was a wedding dancing with somebody’s handsome cousin when he mentioned going to dancing school as young boy. Of course, I thought. These things are skills, and people learn the skills they expect to need. That’s why I can order a frappuccino in Mandarin and wash all my clothes in the sink. Wait. Anyway. Moving on.

Our heroine, Evelyn, has been to the correct prep school and college, but is slightly lacking in the other skills. Her new-money parents, a gaudy Southern lawyer and a social climbing mom, have done their best to purchase what can be purchased, but the correct ancestors the attitude that accompanies them aren’t for sale. Evelyn carefully memorizes the Emily Post manual and researches debutante balls, and when she has the chance to befriend the pedigreed queen bee, she slightly exaggerates her story.

Evelyn was mostly sympathetic, and the contrast between her father’s mill-town North Carolina roots and Evelyn’s socialite New York (New York is pretty much upper Manhattan, and the Hamptons, of course.) was perfect. So good. I wanted more scenes of her dad ordering the wrong thing in trendy restaurants, while Evelyn cringed.  But as the story progressed, I wanted her to tone it down a little. Pretending to be a deb, ok, but actually opening the debutante ball? Asking for trouble. Tens of thousands of dollars on dresses worn just once seemed ridiculous, but if you’re going to do it, at least sell them off on Craig’s List or Tradesy afterwards. She kept wanting more and more, until it was somewhat difficult to sympathize with her social climbing, underhanded ways, and reckless shopping. Of course, that can’t last, and there’s only so long that North Carolina New Money can pass herself off as something else.

Overall, another great manners and lifestyle novel, where the protagonist is pretty aware of being among the manners-novel elite.


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