You or Someone Like You
By Chandler Burr
(Ecco, Hardcover, 9780061715655, 336pp.)
Publication Date: June 2009
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Anne Rosenbaum leads a life of quiet Los Angeles privilege, the wife of Hollywood executive Howard Rosenbaum and mother of their seventeen-year-old son, Sam. Years ago Anne and Howard met studying litera-ture at Columbia—she, the daughter of a British diplo-mat from London, he a boy from an Orthodox Jewish neighborhood in Brooklyn. Now on sleek blue California evenings, Anne attends halogen-lit movie premieres on the arm of her powerful husband. But her private life is lived in the world of her garden, reading books.
When one of Howard's friends, the head of a studio, asks Anne to make a reading list, she casually agrees—though, as a director reminds her, "no one reads in Hollywood." To her surprise, they begin calling: screen-writers; producers, from their bungalows; and agents, from their plush offices on Wilshire and Beverly. Soon Anne finds herself leading an exclusive book club for the industry elite. Emerging gradually from her seclu-sion, she guides her readers into the ideas and beauties of Donne, Yeats, Auden, and Mamet, with her brilliant and increasingly bold opinions. But when a crisis of identity unexpectedly turns an anguished Howard back toward the Orthodoxy he left behind as a young man, Anne must set out to save what she values above all else: her husband's love.
At once fiercely intelligent and emotionally grip-ping, You or Someone Like You confronts the fault lines between inherited faith and personal creed, and, through the surprising transformation of one exceptional, unfor-gettable woman, illuminates literature's power to change our lives.
Chandler Burr is the New York Times scent critic and author of The Perfect Scent, The Emperor of Scent, and A Separate Creation. He has written for the Atlantic and The New Yorker. He lives in New York City.
“A true celebration of intellect . . . examines the personal decision each of us must make to run from, or embrace, our identity.”
“You Or Someone Like You is a pitch-perfect, often very funny novel about why, in this crazy world, we still bother to read. It’s for anyone who defiantly clings to the belief that a book can change our lives.”
-David Ebershoff, author of The 19th Wife and The Danish Girl
“A savvy novel that deals with Hollywood from a cultural rather than a tabloid perspective.”
-Kirkus Reviews (starred)
“The highbrow humanist name-dropping book of the summer.”
-New York Magazine
“[Burr’s] field work serves the novel well, with depictions of Los Angeles culture that feel spot-on...It’s a genuine thrill to read what people like Albert Brooks, to give just one of many examples, might think of Jude the Obscure...”
-Time Out New York
“Provocative...weighs in on the issue of identity politics and also makes a powerful case for why great books are a great danger to small minds.”
-NPR's Fresh Air
“You or Someone Like You finds trend-loving Hollywood in a bookish trance and a certain studio exec’s wife as literary guru du jour....Burr’s tale touches on marital strife, prejudice, and identity struggles with intoxicating realism.”
“In his first, well-crafted and thoroughly enjoyable novel, New York Times scent critic Chandler Burr presents a sweeping spectrum, set in Hollywood, of contemporary religious and social issues. . . . It is well worth the read.”
-Jewish Book World
“Burr luxuriates in word play...You or Someone Like You is loaded with smart and sassy insights about writers and writing.”
“An ambitious debut novel...suggests the literary scope of Harold Bloom and the thematic concerns of Bernard Malamud...Mr. Burr may be the scent critic for the New York Times, but the ideas he tackles in his novel are hardly airy confections...”
-Wall Street Journal
“Chandler Burr’s challenging first novel is many things: a glimpse into Hollywood culture, an argument about religious identity, a plea for the necessity of literature. This is a roman that needs no clefs, and it’s generally an interesting mash-up.”
“...This new novel questioning the merits of religion comes as a bit of a surprise from The New York Times’ perfume critic...but Burr has proved to be much more than a hack with a good sense of smell...Chandler Burr: Renaissance man. Who knew?”
-The Daily Beast