‘Devil Wears Prada’ author examines Fairfield County scandal
Lauren Weisberger has fun taking a satirical scalpel to some of the residents of Greenwich in her new novel “When Life Gives You Lululemons” (Simon and Schuster, $25.26).
An early scene makes note of the deceptive downtown: “... upon first glance (it) resembled a charming version of a pedestrian-friendly, all-American Any Town — until you noticed the storefronts: Tiffany, rag & bone, Brooks Brothers, Baccarat, Alice and Olivia, Joie, Vince, Theory. The rare mom-and-pop store sold and serviced fur coats. Range Rovers and Audi SUVs occupied at least fifty percent of the metered spots.”
Weisberger’s snarky but oddly lovable public relations whiz, Emily Charlton, a Manhattanite who spends much of the novel working on damage control for a Greenwich client/friend, is impressed by the subtle power of the women in the town: “The sheer amount of money, time, and energy these women could pool among them was astonishing: if they turned their attention to it, Emily had no doubt the town moms could end world hunger or eliminate religious persecution. Just turn those Greenwich moms loose with their two-hundred-dollar yoga leggings and their Prada checkbooks and their trainer-toned bodies, and there was nothing they couldn’t accomplish.”
The author of “The Devil Wears Pr
“Honestly, it was a shortcut for me,” the writer says of her Fairfield County setting. “You could swap in so many different towns, (but) it is easy to recognize as a well-known affluent suburb. ... I certainly didn’t mean to pick on Greenwich. It’s really unfair to stereotype any town because you can always find your people there.”
Weisberger is celebrating the June 5 publication of “Lululemons” with a 7 p.m. appearance in her hometown of Westport at the Saugatuck Congregational Church. On June 7 at 10 a.m. the UJA-JCC of Greenwich will host a talk and signing at JHouse (registration at ujajcc.org)
“Lululemons” brings together two old friends, Emily, and high-powered lawyer turned Greenwich homemaker Miriam as they try to save the reputation of Karolina Hartwell, a supermodel who is framed on a trumped-up DUI arrest engineered by her politician husband. The cad wants to trade Karolina in for the daughter of a former president who, he thinks, would be a much more suitable mate for his own national political ambitions.
As the three women unite to battle the vile politico, the novel becomes a stirring and funny tribute to the power of female friendship. “That was definitely one of the themes I wanted to explore,” Weisberger says. “To show how they come together and have each others’ backs.”
Emily was featured in Weisberger’s blockbuster 2003 debut novel, “The Devil Wears Prada,” as the first assistant to imperious magazine editor Miranda Priestly. She was something of an icy mini-Miranda in that book, but in subsequent stories over the years readers have gotten to know Emily and to admire the woman’s tell-it-like-it-is attitude. The new novel knocks the PR specialist down a peg or two when several of her high-profile clients move on to another firm.
Emily licks her wounds in Greenwich while trying to save Karolina from her husband’s scorched-earth divorce plot. In another writer’s hands, the character could be nothing but a bitter pill, but Weisberger humanizes the type-A woman.
“She does say whatever she thinks,” the novelist says. “But she would take the shirt off her back for a friend.” Unlike the rest of us, she adds, who can’t come up with a snappy comeback until a confrontation is long over, “Emily always gets it right. She never has a regret an hour later.”
Weisberger cuts back and forth between the points of view of the three women, a process she enjoyed. “I love the characters’ different minds. They are three women of a similar age and similar lifestyle, so the challenge was how to make them different.”
Priestly makes a brief but crucial appearance in the new novel, reaffirming her position as one of the great love-to-hate characters in modern fiction. Meryl Streep was nominated for an Oscar as Miranda in the 2006 movie version of “The Devil Wears Prada” and composer Elton John and writer Paul Rudnick have been at work on a musical version of the story. Weisberger has no complaints about the movie and is thrilled by the idea of a stage version.
“You have to recognize the differences in an adaptation,” she says. “A 350-page novel that someone else turns into a 110-page script ... culling what they need from (the novel) in their own voice. It is terrifying to turn your book over (to someone else), but I couldn’t have been luckier or happier. ... They did a wonderful job.”
The musical is in an early stage of development, but Weisberger is excited by the idea of her story being set to music by John, with a script by Rudnick, a brilliant comic writer.
“I knew nothing about the making of a Broadway musical. Making a movie is slow, but this is unbelievably slow,” the writer says of the writing, workshopping and out-of-town try-out process that can take several years before a show opens to the public.