“Brooklyn women wore black T-shirts and scuffed shoes and unwashed hair and somehow looked impossibly chic. I, in contrast, felt like a Carrie impersonator from Omaha on the ‘Sex and the City’ bus tour.” — Chapter 6 of “A Lady’s Guide to Selling Out”
The workplace drama in Sally Franson’s debut novel “A Lady’s Guide to Selling Out” is loosely inspired by Franson’s personal experience as an intern at Daily Candy at the height of its popularity in 2005-2006, when the culture was mean, beautiful and glamorous.
To further her research, Franson spent time shadowing employees at a boutique ad agency, where she took inspiration for the design and ethos of People’s Republic, the fictional agency in her novel. Chapter 6 of the novel, “The Game of Brooklyn,” takes place in the borough.
The book’s protagonist Casey Pendergast is losing her way. Once a book-loving English major, Pendergast lands a job at a top ad agency that highly values her ability to tell a good story. Her best friend thinks she’s a sellout, but Pendergast tells herself that she’s just paying the bills and that she can’t help that she has champagne taste.
When her hard-to-please boss assigns her to a top-secret campaign that pairs literary authors with corporations hungry for upmarket cachet, Pendergast is both excited and skeptical. But as she crisscrosses America, wooing her former idols, she’s shocked at how quickly they compromise their integrity: A short-story writer leaves academia to craft campaigns for a plus-size clothing chain and a reclusive nature writer signs away her life’s work to a manufacturer of granola bars.
When she falls in love with one of her authors, Pendergast can no longer ignore her own nagging doubts about the human cost of her success. By the time the year’s biggest book festival rolls around in Las Vegas, it will take every ounce of Pendergast’s moxie to undo the damage — and, hopefully, save her own soul.
Told in an unforgettable voice, with razor-sharp observations about everything from feminism to pop culture to social media, “A Lady’s Guide to Selling Out” is the story of a young woman untangling the contradictions of our era and trying to escape the rat race by any means necessary.
Franson’s exceptional work has received recognition from the MacDowell Colony, Glimmer Train, the Best American series and she’s appeared in The Guardian and on NPR/Weekend Edition with Scott Simon.