'The Manny' Author Is Fooling No One But Herself

Holly Peterson, a socialite with a billionaire father, has just published a book called The Manny, for which she received a $1 million two-book deal. She explains its appeal to the Times like so: "I have a unique perch from which to write about this world. I've got a big fat toe in it. Most people in this world don't write about it and most journalists don't see it." Almost nothing about this statement is true—even, probably, the part about Holly's fat toe.

For starters, Holly's "perch" is the farthest thing from "unique." She's riding the tail end of the latest iteration of the socialite roman a clef trend, which last enjoyed a memorable renaissance around the time when the Mitford sisters were spewing exquisitely targeted bile on their aristocratic pals in the early part of the last century. And while at one point it might have been true that "most people in that world don't write about it," right now, at least, it seems that nearly all of them are.

Think about it. When was the last time you read about a heavily buzzed about debut novel whose author wasn't some socially connected rich lady who, like Holly, managed to slip some some book-advance monies into her already bulging snakeskin by using her "Rolodex"? The recent publication of art collector Danielle Ganek's Lulu Meets God And Doubts Him is just the latest example of a trend that really got underway with sometime Vogue editor Plum Sykes' debut, Bergdorf Blondes, and its follow-up, The Debutante Divorcee. Always uncomfortably striding the tonal line between out-and-out mockery and celebration of excess, the commercial success of these books seemed to prove to publishers that pretty rich ladies, regardless of their books' actual readability, were bankable assets. After all, it's good (and, increasingly, necessary) for publishers to have authors in their own stables who will underwrite their own book parties and hire their own publicists.

So the copycat deals keep rolling in. Tatiana Boncompagni's Gilding Lily, "a humorous roman a clef set amid Manhattan's high society play dates, loaner gowns and jewels, and socialite PR specialists, drawing on the author's own experience reporting on the socialite scene for the NYT and life as daughter to an Italian Princess and wife to Max Hoover, heir to the vacuum cleaning fortune" was recently pre-empted by Morrow. There's Taboo, the Dalton-druggie expose by (probably) Anisha Lakhani. Can Tinsley Mortimer's literary debut be far behind? Kidding! Well ... maybe.

Manny and The Socialites: Let's Roll [NYT]