The Hardest Working Woman in Trash Fiction
HELEN GURLEY BROWN is talking about Judith Krantz, who used to write replica louis vuitton bags from china for Cosmopolitan magazine and who also is a close friend. In her famous urgent whisper, Brown says, “There are people who say to Judy, ‘Why don’t you write something good? Something literary? Something you can be proud of?’ Well, I’d like to put a bullet through those people’s heads.”
Brown stops, carefully weighing the savageness of her statement. “No,” she reconsiders. “First I’d like to pull out their fingernails, one by one, then put a bullet through their heads. Because they’re just” she searches cheap replica handbags for the right invective ” pretentious jerks.”
LEAVE IT TO her friends to come up with fantasies of violent retribution. Judith Krantz prefers to be nice. Nice, as in ignoring the greasy lake that forms on her plate when the waiter at Le Dome spills San Pellegrino water onto her veal and chicken boudin. Nice, as in accepting what people think about blockbuster novels: that anyone can write one given a string of lunch breaks and low enough standards.
So when she’s quizzed about loftier aspirations which “happens so often that I don’t even get insulted” Krantz smiles and replies, “I write the best books that I know how. I can’t write any better than this.”
Of course, privately, the Wellesley graduate tosses her hands into the air and laughs. “You know, people think that because I had a good education, I’m not writing on the level that I should. They think I’m harboring some slim little intellectual volume, that I am really Isaac Bashevis Singer in disguise.”
Back in her Bel Air home, 62 year old Krantz looks around her office. It’s a padded cell, really. The walls are soundproof, cushioned and upholstered in a leaf green and orange floral fabric that sinks in at the poke of a fingertip. This is the room where, when she is composing one of her 500 plus page sagas full of ka boom! sex replica louis vuitton and frenzied consumerism, she spends six and a half hours a day, five days a week, with the exception of Wednesday afternoons. (For the past 19 years, she’s dedicated part of one day every week to getting her beige pouf done at Aida Grey in Beverly Hills.) She works in an old silk blouse and sweat pants, wearing layers of sweaters that she’ll shed throughout the day when things are going well, Krantz’s body temperature sizzles. For nine solid months, the only other breaks in her workday come when she nibbles on her spartan lunch of iced tea and a chicken salad sandwich fake louis bag , or speaks with her blond assistant, Edwina Lloyd, or accepts phone calls from her husband, television producer Steve Krantz.
Krantz gives the tiniest of sighs and contemplates her brand new red tennis shoes, so small they should be bronzed. “What all this indicates to me is that people think what I’m writing is fun, that they really don’t understand how hard ‘fun’ is to write,” she says, her voice rising slightly. “It’s hard to entertain people and make a story move just like that. ”
She knows that her critics have no idea what it takes, how much preparation is required before she taps out a single sentence on her Macintosh Plus computer. They don’t care about how much interviewing and research go into building the novels’ heavily populated worlds. If few of Krantz’s theatrically romantic figures could exist in real life, she nonetheless tries to construct for them an accurate reality. Inside the cabinets of her wood worktable, she’s stored stacks of brown spiral binders, the end result of investigations so thorough that she’ll end up using “only 1% of the information” she’s collected. Just as in the days when she was a journalist, she’ll call up experts out of the blue and pick their brains or set off on a fact finding mission in her chauffeur driven limousine. When Red Appleton, a 40ish but still beautiful fashion model, goes to Louis Vuitton at South Coast Plaza to check out an 18 karat gold Gae Aulenti fountain pen for Mike Kilkullen, her 60ish but still virile fiance, Krantz herself has visited the place and priced the thing.
Red and Mike are central characters in “Dazzle,” Krantz’s just published book, which, if all things go as anticipated, will rise dreamily to the top of the bestseller lists. That’s what “Scruples,” “Princess Daisy,” “Mistral’s Daughter” and “I’ll Take Manhattan” did in 1978, 1980, 1983 and 1986, respectively. Only one Krantz book in 12 years “Till We Meet Again,” in 1988 stuck at No. 2. All told, 60 million copies of her books (paperback and hardcover) have sold worldwide, in 30 languages.
Over the years, Krantz has displayed a knack for ensuring such sales. Perhaps this is because, as she is fond of saying, she is “an advertising man’s daughter.” She has extremely strict ideas regarding the promotion and marketing of her books. In fact, says Crown Publishing Group executive vice president Michelle Sidrane: “We consider her a partner in that process.”
Krantz know s her readers’ turn offs and turn ons. When it comes time to approve the dust jacket copy, Krantz will rewrite it herself if it doesn’t suit her. She altered the “Dazzle” blurb, for example, so that it focused on the leading lady, Jazz Kilkullen: “a captivating 1:1 replica handbags , compelling, complex creature who could only exist in the 1990s… an electric hussy” who “is potent, determined and fierce as she fights for those she loves.” Even the retouching of Krantz’s publicity photographs falls within her domain: She makes sure that not too many age lines are airbrushed out because “that way, you look real but not plastic.”
These extra credit activities perhaps inspired “The Packaging of Judith Krantz,” which appeared in the New York Times Magazine in 1980. It was this article, Krantz contends, that helped establish her reputation high quality designer replica handbags wholesale as nothing more than a cleverly hyped commodity: “Publishing’s answer to, I don’t know… Debbie Reynolds or something.”
Much of the lengthy treatise covered Krantz’s participation in the marketing of her novels. The replica louis vuitton bags rest fastidiously documented the effect that her record breaking $3,208,875 fee for the paperback rights to “Princess Daisy” had within the publishing industry.
One of the Designer Louis Vuitton Replica Handbags most incendiary quotations in the New York Times piece came from Roger W. “It was unbelievable,” says Krantz. “People acted as if I had actually put a gun to someone’s head, like Bonnie and Clyde, and said, ‘Your money or your life.’ ” So vitriolic was the response that she began to theorize about the other forces that might have caused such a reaction. “Maybe,” went one hypothesis, “the idea of a fake designer bags woman making that much money was too outrageous.” Or was it her subject matter? “I had written about the fashion industry,” Krantz postulated, “and even though it is one of the biggest industries in the United States, everyone takes it for granted.” Two years passed before she stopped feeling guilty about her landmark deal, stopped feeling as if she’d been “run over by a truck.”
In Krantz’s tales, one is always assured of both a happy ending and villains who, in coming to appreciate the heroine’s finer qualities, apologize for the wickedness of their words and deeds. A decade later, Roger Straus, in his own way, almost follows this character arc. Almost. Krantz’s writing, he concludes, “may be crap, which from a literary standpoint it certainly is,” but now he feels she has evolved into a supportive component of the publishing industry. “Somebody who walks in to buy a Judith Krantz,” he explains, “might stumble across a good book that they might buy for their aging uncle or for their bright son.”
But when Krantz is asked to envision a chance encounter with Straus, her script includes long awaited, if subtle, revenge. “I would be really nice to him,” she says, clapping her hands together merrily. “I would be so warm and friendly that it’d make him worry that he’d been so mean to me.”
ON A HOT AFTERNOON in July, the only thing troubling Krantz is finishing the final corrections on the “Dazzle” galleys. The proofs bear her spidery red ink notations, evidence of Krantz’s ability to pick up on typos and grammatical errors as well as anything that is not perfectly Krantzian. “Look here,” she says, pointing to a line. “They wanted to lower case ‘traffic school,’ but I insisted on capital letters. I told them, ‘You don’t lowercase anything so horrendous.’ ”
And this is just one of the editorial battles in which, as she says, she will always be “an absolute guaranteed winner.” Before Krantz, Crown Publishers Inc. Small wonder that Crown now places a certain trust in Krantz’s intuition about her own writing.
Krantz’s story proposals have shrunk from 40 pages to a brief two sheet outline, no longer than an interoffice memo. And because she prefers that only her assistant and her husband view her works in progress, her weighty opuses arrive (usually before schedule, usually on a Friday) cheap louis vuitton bags from china at her current co publishers, Crown and Bantam Books Perfect Quality Louis Vuitton Replica , “as a happy surprise,” says Betty Prashker, Krantz’s Crown editor since 1981. And because “Judy is a self editor and very much a perfectionist,” her books appear in print almost exactly as she first submits them.
This arrangement may be unusual, but it is hardly risky. In whatever way Krantz’s latest manuscript might diverge from its predecessors, there is always the great certainty that the reader will find the kind of post feminist, have it all heroine who has intense career ambitions, a shopping disorder, an unquenchable libido and a rather convoluted existence. In the ripe world of Jazz Kilkullen, the top celebrity photographer of “Dazzle,” for example, there are two sinister half sisters, three dashing suitors and the potential for her to single handedly save a portion of the Orange County coastline from Hong Kong developers.
Krantz’s style is characterized by its remarkable specificity. Krantz isn’t one to accept any conventional notions about what does or does not warrant physical description. To picture Jazz’s movie star boyfriend, Sam Butler, for example, one is first alerted to the fact that he can’t “disguise the absolute masculinity of his features, the strong, square jaw, the straight nose, the thick, almost flaxen blond hair, 1:1 replica handbags the resolute blue beyond blue eyes, the wide, determined mouth, all arranged in a way that would have left a crowd of Victorian maidens in a mass swoon….”
And then there is her flair for soft core aerobisex. When Krantz’s characters make love, the action seems to downshift into slow motion. “If you’re going to write a good erotic scene,” Krantz says, “you have to go into details. I don’t believe in thunder and lightning and fireworks exploding. I think people what to know what’s happening.”
So when Jazz kisses Sam, for example, she doesn’t just pucker up. She brings “her mouth down on him like a gift, gently, tenderly, with a steadily increasing pressure until she couldn’t wait any longer to learn his mouth with the firm tip of her tongue.”
Few literary critics have taken to Krantz’s rococo writing style. In “Till We Meet Again,” “there is not an insight, a clever line, replica designer handbags a hint of humor, a neat turn of phrase, a felicitous description,” one of Krantz’s typical notices goes. Not surprisingly, Krantz doesn’t read her reviews (“What you don’t know can’t hurt you”) and thinks that critics review her books unfairly. “They don’t judge them for what they are a weekend read, entertainment,” she says. Then she makes a joke: “My books are sent to that Japanese woman at the New York Times whose name I can never pronounce.” Michiko Kakutani? “Right. Can you imagine? That’s like sending an animal to the slaughterhouse.”
Yet the critical mudwash has hardly affected her book sales. She’s not beyond invoking the rallying cry of the commercial novelist: “My fans don’t care about reviews.” But there is a more ironic explanation, too. British critic fake louis bag Clive James once wrote that Krantz has “the opposite of pictorial talent. The more details she piles on, the less clear things become.” But crisp, lucid turns of phrase aren’t what a trashy book junkie is after. “They feel that they haven’t been nurtured, that they haven’t been fed. And what they love is talk of material culture. They love talk of shopping sprees. They love detail. Repetitive romance novel reading is what fills up those empty fantasy spaces.”
A POLTERGEISThas taken up residence in Krantz’s brown plastic beeper, the one she keeps by her plate to summon the maid. Sometimes she presses the button and nothing happens. On other occasions, it goes off by itself, calling upon the maid to serve no one in particular. Happily, on this afternoon, there is mechanical triumph: Krantz aims the device toward the kitchen and out comes the maid with lunch, a large china platter of cold roasted chicken, slim green asparagus and a delicate white rice salad.
It’s easy to see how studiously Krantz choreographs a life full of elegance. Everything seems precisely thought out. Even her country garden, planted just outside her wide dining room windows, is one that she collaborated on with landscape architect James Yoch to give the illusion of being in Provence. The occasional soaring golf ball, followed by enraged cursing, is, of course, a little out of place. But there is only so much choreography can do: Her two story mansion sits directly behind the 17th hole of the links at the Bel Air Country Club.
The style in which Krantz lives, of course, is a lot like the style her characters at least aspire to. Footed crystal schnapps glasses and topiary are the mise en scene of Krantz’ s oeuvre. One can’t help but wonder about her behavior as well. Take her female characters’ frequent habit of tearing apart their closets for the outfit that will have a precise effect upon a particular person. How could one not speculate about how much time Krantz put into selecting her clothing today, in achieving that just so jauntiness conveyed by her blue Chanel blazer, blue and white striped blouse and loosely knotted red dotted swiss necktie.