Fleishman Is in Trouble

A writer sits in Gwyneth Paltrow’s upsetting, perfect kitchen. Gwyneth is preparing an upsettingly perfect dinner, while—upsettingly, perfectly—sipping some whiskey.

That writer is Taffy Brodesser-Akner, who wrote for GQ before moving on to The New York Times, where she writes brilliant, funny, thoughtful profiles—Paltrow, Bradley Cooper, Melissa McCarthy—that singe the tired edges of the profile format and then set the internet ablaze.

When I heard her first novel, Fleishman Is in Trouble, was about a rich Manhattan guy, a newly divorced doctor learning to meet randy women on dating apps, I remember feeling disappointed that her chosen subject matter wasn’t somehow deeper or richer. Which, of course, it is.

As Toby Fleishman rages (and rages) at his ex-wife, Rachel, who drops the kids at his place under cover of night and then promptly disappears, his tale, we soon learn, is narrated not by an omniscient author but by Toby’s old college friend Libby, and she…has written profiles for a prominent men’s magazine. And experience has taught her that one tricky, effective way to write about women—to write about herself—is to write about a man.

“He wondered if there was a version of this story in which he was the villain,” she narrates early on, between Toby’s screeds. “He wondered if Rachel was sitting in some ashram somewhere telling anyone who would listen what a victim she was.”

First Toby lets his guard down and lets in an insight, then reshapes the thought into another insult and his screed continues—it’s a pattern. But Libby keeps watch on his story, shining light into its dark corners. PLEASE READ

Fleishman Is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner, from Random House