July 13, 2014
At a book event in the Hamptons yesterday, the hydration offered wasn’t rose or plain old Poland Spring.
On a table at the Southampton Arts Center, dozens of bottles of Juice Press Aloe Water, Doctor Green and Ginger Firebomb were lined up for guests, interviewer and author.
The occasion was the first in a series of late-morning discussions followed by lunch in the garden at Tutto Il Giorno.
This one featured Holly Peterson talking about her book “The Idea of Him” with Alex Kuczynski, a writer for the New YorkTimes who summed up the plot: “There’s a lot of sex,” she said, twice, “and a lot of social dysfunction.” Also, “a stock-fixing scheme.”
The book, whose April release was celebrated with a party in the Four Seasons Grill Room, is Peterson’s second after the best-selling “The Manny,” published in 2007, in which a woman living on Park Avenue has an affair with her male nanny.
In the aftermath of the financial crisis and “so many people in this country suffering so much,” Peterson decided to change her fictional milieu.
So the husband and wife of “The Idea of Him” live in a mostly commercial section of Chelsea; he works as a magazine editor, she in public relations, making just enough to send their kids to private school as they accumulate the cultural capital that carries such weight in New York.
“Despite their not being billionaires, they wield as much power,” Peterson said, perched in an oversized white armchair at 25 Jobs Lane, a bottle of aloe water at her side.
She herself has straddled these worlds. The daughter of Blackstone Group co-founder Pete Peterson, for 10 years she worked as a producer at ABC News, followed by editorial posts at Newsweek and Talk, where she wrote about buying the wrong Birkin bag.
Her experiences have made her an authority on New York’s meritocracy, including “the bankers and the Dan Loebs, who did it on their own and they can’t stop.”
Their habits make them interesting characters, she says. “They’re a neurotic group of overachievers who will die with their nose in their desk,” Peterson said. “They are crazy, maniacal, highly insecure, never satisfied.”
Kuczynski, who’s married to private investor Charles Stevenson, asked Peterson if the husband character, Wade, was based on her ex-husband, Richard A. Kimball Jr., a former senior managing director at Goldman Sachs who is currently the chief strategy and growth officer of Accretive Health.
Her answer: only to the extent that the woman he’s married to has, as she did, fallen in love with the idea of him. “He isn’t Wade, but he did provide fodder for what is love,” Peterson said.
She then recounted her personal romantic history of attraction to “transgressive types,” like the “guy who smokes pot and still gets As.” She was usually exuberant and passionate for this type of person at the beginning of a relationship, and would later realize they didn’t have a lot to talk about.
She’s working on breaking that pattern, though said the book has not really helped her dating life, as it attracts mostly female readers.
In one scene, an MBA student working as a prostitute is compared to a woman who has married for money.
“When you marry for money, you work for it every day,” Peterson said. As an example, she mentioned the oversight required to maintain five homes.
Peterson’s home in the Hamptons was a gift from her father, and includes a great room she has no idea what to do with, she said as we walked together from the Southampton Arts Center to lunch.
The room was originally intended for balls, one of our tablemates, Carolynn Rockafellow, a retired banker at Credit Suisse First Boston, helpfully noted.
Another, interior designer Melanie Roy, said she uses her great room for entertaining, which usually includes a dinner of lobster and steak.
Wednesday Martin, a writer at work on a book called “The Primates of Park Avenue; an Anthropological Memoir of Uptown Motherhood,” asked Peterson to talk about women who don’t work, a category that was well represented at the gathering during the middle of a week, in the middle of the day, on Long Island’s East End.
Peterson recalled meeting Helen Gurley Brown, the famed editor of Cosmopolitan and author of the 1962 book “Sex and the Single Girl,” who told her, “Honey, the great love in your life should be your work, not your man.”
Work can give women the “satisfaction and confidence that allows us to be more direct in our relationships,” Peterson said. For those who don’t work, she advised to “have passions. I advocate taking classes.”
Kuczynski, who has children aged five and six, said she writes whenever she can, and is lucky she has a profession where that’s possible. “If I were a lawyer, I’d be screwed,” she added.
The lunch crowd included Erica Karsch, wife of former hedge-fund manager Michael Karsch, who’s an investor in Juice Press; Marjorie Harris who despite her husband Josh Harris being an owner of the New Jersey Devils, wore a crisp white top and skirt with Prada belt; and Simone Levinson, wife of real estate developer David Levinson and co-chairman of the Southampton Arts Center.
The trio bandied about an idea for a future get-together, not to discount their satisfaction with their fish in parchment paper served at Tutto: A Juice Press lunch, where juices could be turned into cocktails or spritzers, and the Juice Press chef could serve some of the raw food sold at the mini-chain’s stores in New York, Southampton and Bridgehampton.
Juice Press donated the event’s drinks, said Levinson, an investor in the company, who walked out of the restaurant carrying her black Juice Press insulated bag with the rest of her day’s supply.