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This Is How It Startsby Grant Ginder
Synopses & Reviews
in the tradition of Jay McInerney, Grant Ginder’s phenomenal debut novel follows one post-collegiate idealist on his quest to fit in with—and then distance himself from—capital hill’s up-andcoming political and social elite who work hard but play harder.
• Striking debut: echoing with razor-sharp commentary, This Is How It Starts deftly captures the escapades of D.C.’s moneyed, socially and politically connected recent graduates. In this Bright Lights, Big City for the beltway, secrets are currency, the sex is bipartisan, and rules and boundaries are obsolete.
• Remarkable voice: Ginder’s writing is smart, witty, and resonates with an authenticity that will hook literary-minded readers of Brett easton ellis, Jeff Hobbs, and Joshua Ferris.
• Intriguing narrator: Taylor mack may have graduated from Princeton, but his Laguna Beach upbringing inadequately prepared him for life among D.C.’s movers and shakers. entertaining mishaps aside, Taylor soon discerns how to play the game and learns the cost of being an insider in a town that is unyielding in what it will take from a person in exchange for granting him a margin of knowledge and power.
"A University of Pennsylvania graduate moves to Washington, D.C., to work as a congressional aide in Ginder's lightly cynical Bright Lights, Big City treatment of Washington. Taylor Mark seems more interested in Late Night Shots parties (a displaced WASP social phenomenon) than political parties as he learns the ropes on Capital Hill, so the political satire feels mild compared to the social commentary Ginder offers about the Beltway social scene. Taylor begins an affair with his congressman's unhappy wife (she's a 'gorgeous disaster') and begins to doubt the character of his super-wealthy best friend, Chase Latham, son of a prominent Republican lobbyist who has a thing going with Taylor's cousin. But it seems Ginder has never met a clich he didn't want to enshrine: here, wives of wealthy husbands are catty, gay men write gossip columns, rich guys are laddish boors and their parents are absent, medicated or disapproving. Although light on plot and character development, the author does manage to expose the Hill rat lifestyle with some scalpel-sharp observations, showing that snobbery and envy are bipartisan values. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
It may not seem like a bad way to start, using an iconic novel such as "Bright Lights, Big City" as the template for your debut. Just replace New York with Washington (so hot right now!), publishing with politics, the Coma Baby with a seersucker bow tie, and there you have it: the D.C. version of Jay McInerney's classic. Someone had to write one eventually. Grant Ginder's first novel,... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) "This Is How It Starts," wants to be the one so badly that it reads like a Mad Libs version of "BLBC." It starts with protagonist Taylor Mark already drunk at a pre-recession Gold Cup (instead of high on Bolivian marching powder at the Palladium) with his friend Chase Latham, a Tad Allagash knockoff who keeps Taylor out late on weeknights, making him miss work at his entry-level job on the Hill (in "BLBC," it was "the magazine"). Right away, Taylor wants the reader to know how alienated he feels as he drinks champagne and eats caviar with his friends. "The crowd's doing the waltz, see, and I'm tripping through a tango," he says, and it's not the first time we'll have to read this eye-roller. (The author apparently thinks this line is poignant enough to be a refrain throughout the book.) Where this alienation comes from isn't clear at first. Taylor is a rich kid from Laguna Beach, Calif., and despite spending four years at Penn and having connections that get him a job in a congressman's office, growing up in the O.C. is enough to have made him feel like a total outsider. Soon the story backtracks a few months to Taylor's graduation, when he learns that his parents are breaking up. "I'm a straight white guy from Orange County whose parents are divorced thanks to a midlife crisis. If anyone here is a cliche, it's me," Taylor admits to a sympathetic co-worker. The divorce weighs on him, so he starts smoking and drinking. His friends are all cokeheads, but Taylor never partakes, making this one of the duller downward spirals in modern fiction. And when he starts sleeping with his congressman's hottie wife, even the sex scenes manage to be boring. In fact, Ginder's prose is rarely amusing or enjoyable. Perhaps it's moony and aimless on purpose — all part of the ennui and disillusionment, as though the characters are intentionally cliche because Washington is really like that. That approach might have seemed stylish back in the 1980s, but 25 years after "Bright Lights," "Less Than Zero," etc., it just isn't fresh anymore. Ginder could be another Jay McInerney or Bret Easton Ellis, if that's what he wants, but he'll have to start all over. Reviewed by Jessica Cutler, who is the author of 'The Washingtonienne', Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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Ginder's debut novel follows one post-collegiate idealist on his quest to fit in with--and then distance himself from--Capitol Hill's up-and-coming political and social elite who work hard but play harder.
Meet Taylor Mark: a recent college graduate who has moved to Washington, D.C., to work for John Grayson, the less-than-brilliant congressman from his home district in southern California. Inadequately prepared for life among D.C.'s movers and shakers, Taylor quickly learns that Washington is a city where deals are made behind closed doors. And there's no one better to teach him — and Grayson — that lesson than Chase Latham, Taylor's former college roommate and the son of a powerful lobbyist. To Chase, the Beltway's bars, restaurants, town houses, and government offices are one big, debauched playground — a land of milk and honey where secrets are currency, the sex is bipartisan, and rules and boundaries are obsolete. It's a place where, as the stakes are raised, the line between right and wrong becomes blurred and friends' loyalties are nothing more than fragments of the past.
This Is How It Starts is an incisively written debut novel about how far one postcollegiate idealist will go to be an insider in a town that is unyielding in what it will take from a person in exchange for granting him a margin of knowledge and power.
Ginder's phenomenal debut novel deftly captures the escapades of D.C.'s up-and-coming political and social elite as they navigate life in the beltway.
About the Author
Grant Ginder graduated from the university of Pennsylvania, where he edited 34th Street, the school’s humor and culture magazine. He currently works as a speechwriting associate at the Center for American Progress, a Washington, D.C.–based think tank. He lives in New York City.
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