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Roman à Clef Watch

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Assistant lit—so last season—seems to have metastasized into several new genres. For starters, there’s sex-protégée lit, epitomized by Leslie Hendry’s manuscript for Touched by Ink-Stained Hands (dug up by “Page Six”!), in which the former Bloomberg News lawyer touches, with ink-stained hands, on her liaison with much-older ousted Times executive editor Howell Raines. Sample sex passage: “She never felt so much force . . . and it seemed to go on forever.” Then there’s Nicole Richie’s entry in the brand-new toxic-sidekick genre, skewering one Simone Westlake, an empty-headed blonde famous for her “night-vision skin flicks”—a Paris Hiltonian figure who betrays a human sidekick named Chloe and loses an electronic one, spilling her celebrity friends’ e-mail addresses to the masses. All this, plus a sixteen-page non-sequitur photo insert featuring Nicole as a Vegas dancer, blinged-out princess, and slutty schoolgirl! Amateurish as the book is, Richie does nail a staple of the genre: the party-tracking shot, yielding rapid-fire composite characters under the guise of narrative. “Next to Joey the Junkie sat Carrie the Queen. . . At the other end of the booth was Mikela, a J.Lo-built flower-grandchild brunette,” and so on. It’s a trope long ago perfected by Jay McInerney, whose witty new book, The Good Life, out in February, chronicles post–September 11 New York, but also takes us on a party circuit that includes Gay and Nan Talese and the ubiquitous Salman Rushdie—not to mention a black version of Bret Easton Ellis. Meanwhile, Ana Marie Cox, a.k.a. D.C. blogger Wonkette, spearheads the incipient wave of blog lit with January’s Dog Days—though the entertainment value of the guessing games (Lloyd Grove? Michael Isikoff?) drops off precipitously with increasing distance from Capitol Hill. Still, Wonkette followers will instantly remember Cox’s outing of slutty blogger Washingtonienne—here transformed into “Capitolette,” a Wag the Dog–style hoax created as a distraction from a Kerry-ish candidate’s Swift Boat–like troubles. And in a nicely Möbian twist, Capitolette’s blog—like Cox’s and that of the real-life Washingtonienne, Jessica Cutler (whose roman à clef came out this year)—triggers a tidal wave of book offers.


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