Girl in a power-suit

Lauren Weisberger continues to churn out spot-on commentaries about life in the Big Apple.

By DANIELLE MAX
October 9, 2005 12:20
Girl in a power-suit

lauren weisberger 88. (photo credit: )

 
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Everyone Worth Knowing By Lauren Weisberger Simon and Schuster 384pp., $23.95 On the phone, Lauren Weisberger, still perceptibly overwhelmed by her sudden success, exudes enthusiasm. She is happy to talk about everything from the virtues of Teva Naots over Birkenstocks, her studies in Israel during high school and college and how much it means to her parents for her to be interviewed by The Jerusalem Post. Only when the subject of Weisberger's first boss, the venerated Vogue editor Anna Wintour, crops up is she slightly evasive. Unsurprisingly. After the publication of Weisberger's first novel, The Devil Wears Prada, everyone was asking if Miranda Priestly, the harridan boss depicted in the book, was based on the infamous ice queen, Wintour. Weisberger, who spent 10 months as Wintour's assistant, consistently denies any connection, and Wintour herself has not commented publicly about the book. Whatever the inspiration, the book remained on The New York Times hardcover bestseller list for six months and is set to become a film starring Meryl Streep. Now Weisberger, who has just signed up to write her third book, is back with another light-hearted look at a twenty-something's life in New York. This time her protagonist is Bette Robinson, a 26-year-old investment banker whose 80-hour workweeks keep the "social" firmly out of her life. After resigning from the bank, Bette finds a new job working at Kelly & Company, "Manhattan's hottest PR and events planning firm." Suddenly the retiring Bette finds herself at the heart of the New York social scene and in a very public relationship with an infamous playboy. As Bette struggles to keep her private life private and out of view of a vindictive, anonymous gossip columnist who follows her everywhere, she realizes that not everyone is worth knowing. Were you surprised by the amount of publicity generated by The Devil Wears Prada? In the beginning I was very surprised. I wasn't prepared for anyone to know anything about the book or for anything that surrounded it. I was just so excited that an American publisher that I'd heard of was going to be publishing something that I had written that I was totally floored. Now I'm just hoping it all happens again. What was the inspiration for Everyone Worth Knowing? I'm not someone who tends to go out a whole lot, unless I'm researching this book. I love going out to dinner with friends, I love meeting people one on one and I love more than anything having people over here, ordering in and watching some bad television. But, if you live in New York long enough you have a certain number of friends who are part of "the scene." It's not so much my world, yet I thought it would be really cool to be able to access it, see it and write about it while hiding behind a notepad and a pen, which is precisely what I did. It was only after I started researching that I decided I'd really like the main character to be an events planner. It would certainly give her access to this world that appears to be so sexy and glamorous from the outside and you know, once you get there, it's not. Both Bette and Andrea are quite similar characters: do you see yourself in them? I definitely do. People made an automatic assumption when I was writing the first book, which I think is a very natural assumption, that author and narrator were the same, because both had jobs working at fashion magazines for sort of notoriously difficult editors. There were, however, very, very many things that were not similar. With the second book I don't feel the constraint of having people imagine that I am my character. There's a little bit more freedom in the fact that my background doesn't exactly mesh with hers. How important is it for you to have Jewish characters in your book? It's important to me because, along the same vein of writing what you know, I can't imagine constructing a single's life and her family's life without them being Jewish. I don't think it's a feature necessarily or any sort of deliberate statement so much as it's what I know, it's what I'm comfortable with and it's just for me the easiest way to make them. Who, in your opinion, are the people worth knowing? Do you know, that is the first time I've ever got that question. I don't know if I can answer that in any non-cheesy way. The people worth knowing in anyone's life are your closest friends and family. The title though refers to the idea in New York, and possibly elsewhere, when people arrive at a destination, they take a look around and the immediate assessment is who's here? Are they people worth knowing and, therefore, does this make it an acceptable venue for the next couple of hours? You know, then you start thinking about what's next, what's next? Who's going to be where? And the "who" they're talking about is always the same group of people. It's a huge city and a very small scene in terms of who the people are who can get in anywhere, who know all the bouncers, all the club managers, and always have a table. What was the difference between writing your first and second books? Writing the first book was such a surreal experience unto itself. When I sold it unfinished I had to leave my job at a magazine and write full-time in this crazed way over the summer. I didn't know what to expect. I remember just sort of sitting at the desk and going "I don't know how to write a book. When is somebody going to figure out that I don't know how to write a book?" The second one was, in a lot of ways, harder, because I did know exactly what to expect. There was the pressure coming off the first, which was a phenomenon that I hadn't expected and that I don't know if anyone had expected. Also, every word that had been written anywhere about the first one was enmeshed in my brain. It would sort of come flashing back, like "don't write that, remember what they said about the first one." There was a lot of that psychological stuff to deal with. However, I also knew how to work with an editor, so in that way it was a little different from when I was so scared to show anyone that I had doubts or didn't know what I was doing. Do you mind that your books are called chick lit? No! It's a genre, it's a really huge and successful one and one that people, especially young women, keep coming back to. So no, it's exactly what it is. I think it's important to measure books against what they are supposed to be. They're supposed to be entertaining. They're books that young women can pick up anywhere and relate them to their own lives. If I can do that, then I think that's great. I'm not looking to be moralizing or conveying lessons, or writing great literature now. They are super fun to write and hopefully fun to read.

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