Any book relating to New York, especially living in New York City, jumps a few rungs up on my “To Read” list. When I heard of Primates of Park Avenue I thought it was right up my alley. Parenting in my favorite city in the world, aside from Rome – I ordered the Kindle version and made myself comfortable.
Wednesday Martin, the main character and author of the book, delves into a “foreign” life initially living in the Midwest, then moving from the Village – and then to the Upper East Side of New York City – a total 360 degree lifestyle from what she was used to. Moving to New York, she pursued a doctorate in cultural studies and comparative literature. Here she met her husband who was born and raised in New York – used to the lifestyle.
Life in the Village for her was relaxed, filled with creative types, farm-to-table restaurants – completely different from the lifestyle Wednesday and her family moved in to. Gone were the days of not having to dress up for play dates or laxing on the make-up routine to go to the grocery store.
Her new locale introduced her to expensive clothing, being ostracized in the schools by certain moms, and the “need” for a coveted Hermes Birkin bag. I couldn’t even imagine the paperwork and yellow tape Wednesday had to go through to get her child into an acceptable preschool (yes, preschool – what is it going to be like when her baby boy goes to college?).
The New York Times describes the book as:
An amusing, perceptive and, at times thrillingly evil takedown of upper-class culture by an outsider with a front-row seat…Martin’s writing is confident and evocative…Her reading of the fashion attire of real estate brokers for ‘triple mint’ apartments is brilliant…at a time when a social comedy of the rich a la Tom Wolfe has been lost in national discourse…it’s fun to dip into a sophisticated, if silly, look at the Upper East Side’s Twilight Zone. Primates of Park Avenue is also a good reminder that as much as we may envy the wealthy, they fight every day for a place in their own social hierarchy, too.
I don’t understand how people can be so superficial as to fight for a place in this invisible hierarchy. The day-to-day pressures of raising a child, managing a household, and for me – a business – I’d have no patience for this type of life. Don’t get me wrong as I love the better things in life, but I have the strength to push aside my “wants” to nourish and grow my “needs” – my children, my family as a whole.
I’m amazed that I read this cover to cover because it is insanely superficial in how these moms seem BUT it’s always intrigued me as to how they live the way they do and why they act the way they do. The author assimilates how they live in relation to what she studied as an anthropologist. Interesting comparisons such as the need for a Birkin bag and how once owned raises you in the hierarchy. I was amused by the anecdotes where she compared the lives of mammals (not humans – more like baboons) to the lives of these elite women she encountered on a day-to-day basis.
I read this to the very end also because, as I mentioned above, I was curious as to how the UES (Upper East Side) families lived and I truly enjoyed Martin’s style of writing.
If you’re interested in reading Primates of Park Avenue, click HERE.
What books have you read lately that you’d recommend? I’d love to know!