The beige was better
- Bending Heaven by Jessica Francis Kane
Chatto, 208 pp, £10.00, June 2003, ISBN 0 7011 7517 6
In ‘How to Become a Publicist’, the liveliest story in Jessica Francis Kane’s first collection, Bending Heaven, a young woman moves to Manhattan to pursue a career in publishing, and as part of a family tradition: ‘All the women on my mother’s side have come to New York, lived, burned out, and eventually left.’ She falls into the enthusiastic world of publicity, where ‘Everything’s interrelated!’ and learns to write snappy press releases: ‘Who was Shakespeare? In this breakthrough study, the mystery is revealed.’ Soon she is cold-calling talk show hosts to promote Wistful Moors, a novel based on the life of Charlotte Brontë. Seeking authenticity, she moves into a grungy walk-up on the Upper West Side, learns to avoid the drug dealers, and begins to love New York, or at least parts of it: ‘the undulating expanse of Central Park, like actors offstage waving a giant green sheet in the middle of the city’. But when she calls home, her mother’s voice is ‘small and hard’, and when she tries to plot her next move, none of the scenarios she imagines has a happy outcome.