Love and money plays out on Upper East Side

May 20, 2009 11:55:34 AM PDT
Readers of "The Ex-Mrs. Hedgefund" will be disappointed if they expect to find out exactly what it is that hedge funds are designed to hedge against.

It's apparently not hunger or homelessness. Since some funds require a minimum investment of $1 million, prudent investors must have a bit left over for caviar and castles. Despite the recession, some funds churned billions for distribution in 2008.

"What my husband and his brother Hal do, is very mysterious," Holly, the heroine-narrator, says, "and, well, to me, boring. ... (A)ll anyone knows is that these guys are minting it, and that the culture, even if clueless about what they actually do, is obsessed."

Holland (Holly) Talbott, her husband Tim and son Miles live in a luxury apartment with a view of parades on Fifth Avenue. In an effort to please Holly, who is considering separation, and his own competitive ego, Tim makes a successful bid of $500,000 for an item in a charity auction: the right for Holly to play a corpse in the TV series "Law & Order."

Tim, who has acquired a mistress, is a one-dimensional character like his conventionally obnoxious mother. The mother claims a connection with the ruling family of the late Austro-Hungarian empire, a claim that has produced a suitably imperial manner and the nickname Von. She tries to frighten Holly out of divorcing Tim.

"Boys. Will. Be. Boys," Von says. "For hundreds of years there was no divorce in the Von Hapsburg and Talbott families, and now you and that trash Kiki come in and leave our traditions of strong families in shards. ... Just so you know, Holland, you cross this family and you're finished in this town!"

Kiki is divorced from Tim's brother, Hal. She inspires Holly to resume dating. Kiki has a happy manner, a fertile address book and a furiously potty mouth, a habit apparently meant as endearing.

It all makes an entertaining read, especially for those not shocked by soft porn, as Holly sometimes is. The obligatory sex scenes are ample and explicit.

No illustrations, except for comic pseudo-sociological diagrams like one that coordinates shades of blond hair with the character of women who dye it. "The Blonde-O-Meter" indicates that a Locust Valley matron wears ashy blonde and a porn star, platinum.

To get all the jokes, readers need an education in New York's upper-class dialect, a smattering of Wall Street and more than an acquaintance with pop culture. To help get over the agony of her divorce, which is seriously and convincingly described, Holly also enjoys a solitary, middlebrow jaunt to Rome and Florence.

And there's a happy ending. Holly does play the corpse in an episode of "Law & Order" and even gets a tiny speaking part. The scene is a ferry crash, caused by a heroin-crazed captain, and all the passengers become corpses. Before she joins them, Holly is allowed to wail:

"Where is my husband? I can't find my husband!"

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