Vendela Vida's first book, Girls on the Verge-a journalistic study of female initiation rituals-grew out of her MFA thesis at Columbia University. She is co-editor of The Believer magazine, and lives in Northern California with her husband. And Now You Can Go is her first novel.
Ellis, the 21-year-old narrator of Vida's lean, absorbing first novel, is forced at gunpoint to sit and talk with a man in a New York City park as he contemplates a murder/suicide. Like Scheherazade, she reels off half-remembered poems to try to distract the man and keep herself alive. Though nothing more happens on that park bench, she carries on as if treading water in an emotional whirlpool, waiting to get sucked under. A grad student at Columbia, Ellis goes through the various routines expected of the victim of violent crime: reporting the event to the campus police, seeking succor from friends, going to a therapist. But the problem of how to define herself-as a victim or not-lingers and begins to seep into other parts of her life. She ricochets among a handful of men: Tom, her well-meaning but needy boyfriend; the nameless "representative of the world," an enigmatic grad student; a rich, suicidal ex; and her only potential savior, a colorful, if chauvinistic, ROTC recruit full of chivalric gestures and inappropriate comments. Frustrated, Ellis returns to her home in San Francisco and then accompanies her mother on a charitable trip to the Philippines, where, in a series of surreal vignettes, she assists doctors giving eye surgery to the poor. While a more conventional novel would use this trip as a denouement-a kind of reconciliation with her own privilege-here it merely underscores the narrator's dreamlike detachment. Despite the high drama of the start, this is an unsentimental tale, in which the classic brush with death elicits a sense of awe as well as anger, and conventional notions of therapy and reconciliation are overturned. The end, unfortunately, arrives just as the book began-abruptly-and the reader longs for something more. Nevertheless, this remains an intriguing and auspicious debut. Agent, Mary Evans. (Aug.) Forecast: Vida, the author of the nonfiction work Girls on the Verge, is also a co-editor of the magazine the Believer (and was married earlier this year to Dave Eggers). Like her Believer co-editor Heidi Julavits, whose own first novel (Forecasts, June 23) was published earlier this summer, she will attract considerable mainstream and alternative media attention. Eleven-city author tour. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Within three months of moving to New York City for graduate school, 21-year-old Ellis is accosted at gunpoint. Rather than succumb to her assailant's wishes, Ellis tries to talk him out of hurting her. Without thinking, she reels off a litany of calming poems by Phillip Larkin, Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, and William Butler Yeats, among others. Suddenly, her would-be attacker flees, and Ellis is alone. Almost immediately, both friends and strangers begin congratulating her for her pluck. But was it pluck that propelled her? As Ellis replays the incident, she feels an unfamiliar array of emotions, anxiety and panic among them, and seeks comfort in sexual encounters with random men. While these trysts offer short-term relief, they are ultimately unsatisfying; it is only by taking a trip to her parents' California home that she is able to put the event in perspective and regain her footing. Richly drawn, unpredictable, and wryly funny, Vida's debut is dazzling. Manhattan-both people and place-are rendered with rare authenticity. Highly recommended for all libraries.-Eleanor J. Bader, Brooklyn, NY Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
"And Now You Can Go is a swift, fleet novel, a spare but
polished miniature. . . . Vida writes with a sense of urgency, and
with leapfrogging good humor." -The New York Times Book
"And Now You Can Go is so fast, so mesmerizing to read, and so accomplished that it's hard to think of it as a first novel, which it is-Vendela Vida has promise to spare." -Joan Didion
"Clever and dry and funny. . . . Vida has written a thriller: a
thriller about how we love and how we forgive and when and how we
have to choose to do so." -The New York Review of Books
"Astonishingly accomplished. . . . Vida creates the stunning
impression that relationships are always provisional, even if the
most random human interaction has the power to alter-or save-your
life." -Los Angeles Times "It's a challenge to not fall in love
with Vida's characters. . . . Equally humorous and heartbreaking .
. . Vida has written an enormously giving and heartfelt
exploration." -The Austin Chronicle
"Bewitching. . . . Vida demonstrates tremendous patience, sensitivity and droll humor as she charts the path traveled by her memorably odd hero." -Chicago Tribune
"Ellis charms us with her hyperventilated good intentions, foibles and screwups, her whole essence on the page so real and earnest and gullible, so neurotic, so capable we feel as if we have known her our whole lives." -The Miami Herald "Vida's gift lies in her assured grasp of the characters, as wacky as they may be, and in her ability to maintain a sense of humor." -Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
"A fearless, provocative and surprisingly funny story of implied violence and one woman's skeptical pursuit of sanctuary. This observant, fast-paced and engrossing work heralds a writer of great talent." -The San Diego Union-Tribune
"And Now You Can Go is utterly gripping, a book to be read in one sitting." -The Times Literary Supplement (London) "Vendela Vida's first novel defies expectations in virtually every way; what looks to be a tale of psychological trauma, or even revenge, evolves into something much rarer in contemporary fiction: a joyful investigation of the pleasures of living. And Now You Can Go is beguiling, celebratory, and mysterious." -Jennifer Egan "Subtle and psychologically acute . . . the stark, wry minimalism of Ellis' voice works in mesmerizing counterpoint to the lunatic situation that engulfs her." -Newsday
"Compulsively readable." -Vogue
"A captivating character study with surprising pockets of wit. . . . Vida has a brilliant eye for the idiosyncrasies and peculiar details that endear her characters to the reader." -The Plain Dealer "Wonderful. . . . In addition to its stirring plot and narrator, Vida's novel offers solid gimmickless prose that shifts deftly according to scene." -Minneapolis Star Tribune
"And Now You Can Go's narrator is a cool, quirky customer, but she's ever ready to do something generous, something noble, something stamped with grace." -David Schickler "A quick, intriguing and often funny examination of trauma, human relationships and modern life." -San Jose Mercury News "An affecting examination of letting go." -People
"To call Ellis a meticulous observer is, of course, just another way of praising Vida's skill. . . . Her writing is exceptionally detailed and vivid." -The Washington Post
"It is Ellis's fierce refusal to play the victim that drives this riveting book." -O, The Oprah Magazine
"An existential Perils of Pauline A young woman is robbed-at gunpoint!-of her ability to feel. Whether or not she can learn anew how to love is the question at the heart of this wonderful new novel. Comedic yet serious, minimalist yet lush-this is an exciting debut." -Jonathan Ames "Addictive. . . . Vida creates a complex but sympathetic heroine on a voyage and entices you to follow." -The Boston Phoenix "Vendela Vida has a talent for getting into the minds of her subjects. . . . Vida knows what people will do and what they won't do and what they find themselves doing anyway pretty damn well." -W magazine
"And Now You Can Go is consistently a pleasure to read." -The Independent (London) "I was captivated from the first page, compelled to keep reading until I finished in the wee hours of the morning. Vendela Vida's novel is a gift to the reader, a story that contains what I love best about fiction: an idiosyncratic voice, keenly observed gestures, intelligence and heart, and both large and small moments that reverberate in unpredictable ways. And Now You Can Go doesn't let go. It is the debut of a writer with enormous talents." -Amy Tan "Honest, quirky, and surprisingly compelling." -Entertainment Weekly "And Now You Can Go is a book for people who read for pleasure, a book whose beauty lies in its simplicity and sentences that push just enough." -San Francisco Guardian