``...how many nights of my life was I expected to sit down to dinner in the Temple of Dendur with a drunk on one side and a troubled investment banker on the other as the Hank Lane Orchestra played Jeremiah was a bullfrog in my ear?'' How many, indeed, for Libby Alexander, the society scribe known as ``The Pimpernel,'' whose love-hate relationship with the world of the very well-heeled is the stuff of this style-crazy first novel? Libby is the daughter of a Madison Avenue couple who lost their silver ice buckets of money in an investment scam. She's turned to poison-pen journalism and, as ``The Pimpernel,'' gets invited to all the best parties—though even Libby can see that as the 80's close, it's definitely an after-the-ball kind of scene. Through her jaded eyes we take a pew at a by-invitation-only society funeral, slather brie on water-biscuits in living rooms that would make a ``perfect set for Blithe Spirit,'' go walking in Central Park with a gaggle of wealthy matrons who call themselves ``The Peabrains,'' and watch a water main break at the center of Libby's world—Madison and 69th Street. Meanwhile, she develops a hopeless crush on the reclusive Danny Gates—he of Gates Department Store. But because of her funny eyes and essential ``otherness,'' she stands aside and simply watches as Danny shacks up with Veronica, wife of billionaire inventor Jack Kahn. But Jack gets his revenge—and Veronica back—by buying Danny out, leaving Libby to write Danny's biography. The story is silly, but Baumgold (a contributing editor of New York magazine) depicts the world of the idle super-rich with the assurance of an insider, exercising her writerly chops everywhere, questing after the Truman Capote mantle. The result: a heavy-handed satire that'll amuse some—and send others groping for antacid.
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