Her mother's best known character overcame her Fear Of Flying to huge acclaim. Now
MOLLY lONG-FAST wants to emulate her success. She's not the first literary offspring to cash in on her famous name. What is she letting herself in for? Words: Allan Radcliffe
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MOLLY lONG-FAST IS ANXIOUS. THE 22-YEAR-OLD New Yorker‘s first novel receives its L'K publication this fortnight and she‘s about to embark on a week-long promotional tour. She confesses to being intimidated by what she calls the ‘gentrified British press' and is evidently looking forward to her forthcoming interviews and TV appearances with all the confidence of Daniel entering the Lion's Den.
Normal Girl. the book long-Fast is so eager to protect from the talons of these media vultures. is the frank. largely autobiographical account of a teenage lt—girl‘s self-destructive spiral into alcohol and drug oblivion. It's all a cry for help. of course. falling on the deaf ears of her mindless friends and neglectful celebrity parents. until a near-fatal overdose shocks her out of her nirvana and into rehab.
Taken at face value. it‘s a solid enough debut. Heroine Miranda‘s mixture of sardonic self-knowing wit and self—loathing recalls that 80s Manhattan party-girl Alison in Jay Mclnerney‘s Story Of My Life. while the supporting cast of spoilt socialites could have relocated east from Brett Easton Ellis’s Less Than Zero. Although Miranda‘s eventual redemption seems quick and a bit too convenient. Normal Girl is a sharp satire on the vulgar excesses of those who have too much. by one who knows.
But let‘s cut to the chase: according column
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space to the merits of Jong-l’ast‘s writing is merely a polite preface to the real question burning the lips of journalists here and in the LS: ‘\\'hat's her famous mother like." For Molly's mum is none other than lirica long. whose seminal 1970 novel l'i’ar ol'l‘lving introduced the concept of 'the zipless fuck‘ and begat a series of sexy. exuberant. best-selling adventures for free-spirited alter—ego Isadora Wing.
long-liast could be forgiven for feeling irritated by her literary pedigree being more interesting to most than her literary output. But she realises inheriting the family business from such a successful antecedent is a double—edged sword. 'It‘s helped me get through the door in a huge. huge way." she concedes. “There‘s no way I would've got this far otherwise in terms of publishers and the reading public. But here‘s the thing. Critically it’s been a real hindrance. The critics have certain expectations for you. But you don't write for the critics. If you do. why write at all'.”
.»\dmittedly. Normal (iirl received mixed reviews Stateside. And it is often difficult to determine exactly what's being criticised. the book or the author herself for not emulating the unique feat of her mother‘s celebrated debut. Joiig-liast’s dichotomy faces all descendants of distinguished authors with their own writing aspirations. The l’ebruary publication of Ted lleller's Slab Rats. a send-up of the magazine world. was inescapably greeted with comparisons to the satirical work of his late father Joseph. Heller Jnr is arguably beginning his career in fiction as his father ended his. in the shadow of Heller Snr‘s ‘big book' the comic anti-war satire (arch-22. In the meantime he gets around hints of nepotism by stubbornly refusing to discuss his father in interviews.
That neither Jong-l’ast nor llellcr have dropped their well—kent appellations does suggest an ambivalence on their part towards their celebrity offspring status. While the name opens doors. makes contacts. buys lunches and generates publicity. it would be naivete to expect initial media interest to favour any actual writing talent they may have