“It’s a fun summer read and not meant to be taken so seriously as one reviewer has,” said hedge-fund wife Danielle Ganek at a lunch this afternoon celebrating her new book, The Summer We Read Gatsby, which came out in late May. The remark drew laughs from the select number of women gathered at Le Cirque which included Allure‘s Linda Wells, Vanity Fair‘s Vicky Ward, and Vogue‘s Marina Rust Connor.
Ms. Ganek was most likely referring to Liesl Schillinger, whose review of the book in The New York Times last month described it as a “a plucky homage to Fitzgerald’s masterpiece that has about as much in common with ‘Gatsby’ as Diet Coke has with Perrier-Jouët.”
Set in the summer of 2009, Ms. Ganek’s book is about two half-sisters who inherit a Southampton house from their aunt and and spend the summer attending parties and socializing in the Hamptons. Ms. Ganek, who is married to hedge funder David Ganek–they live at 740 Park and have a place in Southampton–is well familiar with the lifestyle. Her first book, Lulu Meets God and Doubts Him, an art world tell-all, came out in 2007 and was blurbed by Larry Gagosian, the couple’s art dealer.
More from Ms. Schillinger’s review:
And if Ganek’s novel is no “Gatsby,” what is? Yet the question arises: Why bring “Gatsby” into this story of two women husband-hunting in the Hamptons in 2008?
Ganek’s novel could have been called The Summer We Read Being and Nothingness or The Summer We Read Nordstrom Catalogs or, for that matter, The Summer We Watched Beaches – given a name change or two. Make no mistake: the operative word in the title is “summer.” As in, How I spent my summer vacation…But the jaw drops, early on, when you realize that for most of this book’s characters “The Great Gatsby” functions less as a work of literature than as a status symbol.
“Am I really that pretentious? It’s meant to be funny and ironic,” Ms. Ganek told the Observer during the lunch. The entree was chicken with peppers, which Ms. Ganek substituted for mushrooms because, as she explained, she is allergic. “Edith Wharton was so funny and she used humor so much in her books and now it seems to be reserved for memoirs. I feel like for women writers, it’s either chick lit or, if it’s serious fiction, then it has to be grim and dark.”
The book opens up with a Gatsby-themed party in Bridgehampton. Could this have been based on the Gatsby-themed party Brooke Geahan threw in honor of Jay McInerney in Montauk last June?
“Oh, no, I had no idea there was a Gatsby-themed party!” said Ms. Ganek. “I was already done with the book by then. But it’s not surprising because that’s sort of my point–it’s always used as a party theme.” The author recounted how her 15-year-old son recently came home with a t-shirt from Urban Outfitters that featured the original cover art for the 1925 novel.
Various desserts arrived alternating between guests and causing many to offer bites to their neighbor. Tasting a chocolate souffle, Hoda Kotb, seated at the Observer’s table, told a story about eating brownies recently and having to pour detergent on the third brownie to stop herself from eating it.
At the end, Peggy Siegal, who organized the lunch, told everyone, “When I first heard about the book I thought it was the Cliff’s Notes!” And then joked, “This is assigned summer reading and at the end of the summer we’re going to have another lunch and a pop quiz.”