OK, first the self-promotion part. Tomorrow, Random House publishes my new novel, Why She Went Home, and I very much hope that you or somebody you know buys a copy. Writing fiction is how I make a living, and I'd like to keep doing so. But second novels are notoriously tricky—sophomore slump, anyone?—and I'm feeling a little anxious.
The book is a sequel to my first novel, What She Saw ..., which came out in 2000. It follows the progress of my heroine, Phoebe Fine, who, on the cusp of 30 and tired of trying to "make it" in New York, returns to New Jersey to hang out with her parents, fight with her older sister, resell her neighbors' garbage on eBay, and fall in love with her father's conductor at the Newark Symphony Orchestra. Sounds simple enough, but it took me two years to write, and I edited it so many times I almost missed the printing deadline. (Thanks to Random House for putting up with my obsessive streak.)
I never set out to be a novelist. My entire creative-writing education amounted to a three-week winter break course that I took during my junior year at Cornell. My first real job out of college was for Time Warner. I worked in the music video department of Atlantic Records, trafficking videotapes to and from the dubbing studio. I was fired for a lateness problem, which I have since rectified. Another job I had was working as a story editor for Brillstein-Grey Entertainment in New York. One day, I was asked to get two tickets to Ricky Jay's sold-out Broadway show for an L.A. producer called Howard Rosenman. I called Jay's agent, who, as I remember, was called Howard Rosenstein. "Hello, I said, "This is Lucinda Rosenfeld for Howard Rosenman for Howard Rosenstein. ..."
When I was 23, I wrote a novel called The Marginal Positionality of New Jersey Relative to the Tri-State Area. Its subject was a love triangle involving a computer-virus doctor, a fashion student at FIT, and a female therapist. The 200-page manuscript, composed partly of e-mail messages, won me a meeting with a New York publisher, Judith Regan, to which I wore an orange lace ice-skating dress that barely covered my underwear. (I thought it was cute.) Thankfully, the deal fell through, and the book was never published. A couple of years later I started "What She Saw ..."
Now, the diary. To be honest, since I made the last changes to my manuscript some time in November, I have led a pretty idle existence, at least as far as writing goes. I don't know about other authors, but for some reason I can't bring myself to start another book before this one is in the stores. All the same, since my boyfriend and I have just purchased a four-story fixer-upper, I have been pretty busy. I have spent countless hours studying home-furnishing catalogues, weighing the pros and cons of rod pocket drapes versus the ringed variety. Like my heroine Phoebe Fine, I have also spent a good chunk of time on eBay. Unlike Phoebe, however, I have been buying rather than selling. My worst purchase to date? A pair of purple velour club chairs from the 1930s, which turned out to be from the 1970s. (Fortunately, I managed to unload them on an "antique" store in the East Village.)
In my 20s, I felt contempt for women who spent all their time decorating, because it seemed so dull and middle-aged. Now I am 34, and I find that I am one of the people I used to look down on. The surprising thing is I don't feel guilty about it. The only thing I feel guilty about is not having started a new novel.
Today was Oscar day. At 2, my friend B. showed up to take her second house tour and drag me to yoga class. I despise yoga on almost every conceivable level. I find it boring, tiring, and painful. The Eastern religion overlay makes me want to roll my eyes. The only reasons I go are a) peer pressure, and b) exercise. Thankfully, today's class wasn't as gruesome as usual. After years of gymnastics classes, I can still do a headstand, and I felt very righteous about the fact that I could hold the position while some people in the class could not. However, I was disappointed when, due to the large number of people in attendance, our very nice and pretty instructor, J., didn't give us individual oil-scented temple massages during the final relaxation period—my favorite part of every class, since you get to lie under a blanket and sleep. Instead, she thanked us for "saluting the light within one another" and told us to get lost (in so many words).
In the evening, I went to an Oscar party at the home of my friends E. and J. The party was super fun, but the show was almost as tedious as yoga. And why does the academy only give female movie stars best actress awards when they make themselves look hideous? What's so noble about that? Last year we had Nicole Kidman in a fake nose. This year it was Charlize Theron in a fright mask. What's next? Scarlett Johansson made up as a leper? Kirsten Dunst playing an East German shot-put champion?