Rachel B. Glaser - Our planet in the slowest pink floyd intro. Everyone begins to pee on water. The best people leave. The pain seems less painful?

Rachel B. Glaser, Pee On Water, Publishing Genius, 2010.


"Glaser's supple narratives reward the reader with dazzling effects." - Stanley G. Crawford

"Rachel B. Glaser is a party of one - smart, zany, and grave. Her stories move like nobody else's among the beguilements and sorrows of being alive. A terrific debut." - Noy Holland

"Rachel Glaser has written a game-changer." - Giancarlo DiTrapano

"These stories are often dazzling, but beneath the bright wit, the weirdness, and the extraordinary invention you will find heart, guts, and a striking intelligence." - Chris Bachelder

Rachel B. Glaser, Paulina & Fran: A Novel, Harper Perennial, 2015.


A story of friendship, art, sex, and curly hair: an audaciously witty debut tracing the pas de deux of lust and love between two young, uncertain, conflicted art students.
At their New England art school, Paulina and Fran both stand apart from the crowd. Paulina is striking and sexually adventurous—a self-proclaimed queen bee with a devastating mean-girl streak. With her gorgeous untamed head of curly hair, Fran is quirky, sweet, and sexually innocent. An aspiring painter whose potential outstrips her confidence, she floats dreamily through criticisms and dance floors alike. On a school trip to Norway, the girls are drawn together, each disarmed by the other’s charisma.
Though their bond is instant and powerful, it’s also wracked by complications. When Fran winds up dating one of Paulina’s ex-boyfriends, an incensed Paulina becomes determined to destroy the couple, creating a rift that will shape their lives well past the halcyon days of art school.
Crackling with bon mots and knowing snapshots of that moment when the carefree cocoon of adolescence opens into the permanent, unknowable future, Paulina & Fran is both a sparkling dance party of a novel, and the debut novel of a writer with rare insight into the complexities of obsession, friendship, and prickly, ever-elusive love.

At an elite New England art school, two young women collide. Paulina is a sexually adventurous wannabe queen bee with a devastating mean- girl streak. Fran is a gifted yet reluctant painter with gorgeous curly hair and uncertain dreams. On a trip to Norway the two are drawn together, but as adult life encroaches, jealousy and unexpected love tear them apart. Rachel B. Glaser's Paulina & Fran is both a sparkling dance party of a novel and a wicked, wistful snapshot of that moment when the carefree cocoon of adolescence opens into the permanent, unknowable future.

“Rachel B. Glaser’s beguiling novel [is] intense and wholly original.” (New York Magazine)
“These are finely detailed, compelling, complex young adults facing archetypical trials: work and art; sex, devotion, obsession and betrayal; the cavernous future; and how to be oneself and be a friend. . . . a glittering, raucous ride and a thoughtful depiction of life: painful and ecstatic.” (Shelf Awareness)

Poet and short story writer Glaser's (MOODS, 2013, etc.) debut novel tells the story of a passionate friendship between two art students.
In their small New England college town, Paulina's and Fran's lives are a whirlwind of art critiques, seduction, gossip, thrift shopping, and dance parties. Paulina, an imposing narcissist, claims talented but meek Fran as the only acceptable company when her crush no-shows for the art department trip to Norway. After bonding with Paulina in museums, hotel rooms, and on the streets of Oslo, Fran and Paulina spend "so much time together without getting sick of each other, it was inspiring." The unlikely pair's matching curly hair seems to be all they have in common. When they return to campus, the new friendship between them shakes up all their relationships, romantic and otherwise, but Paulina's affected detachment is tested when her ex, Julian, takes up with Fran. That betrayal ends the women's friendship but not their intense feelings for each other. They coexist on campus, always thinking of each other. Throughout the book, humor comes from vivid characterization, cutting dialogue, and absurd inner monologues. Paulina intones a mantra, "I love myself I love myself I love myself," to build her confidence and cuts friends down with verbal swords: "You sound like a malfunctioning hair dryer." Initially, the intensely insular world of art school relationships feels too small to drive a novel, but Glaser widens the scope to show her characters navigating the ebb and flow of friendship as they grow into adulthood.
A rare novel that focuses its attention on the difficulties of repairing adult friendships, with a fun setting and a bold cast of characters to lighten the mood. - Kirkus Reviews

“A party in paragraphs that socks you in the mouth when you least expect. I’d pay tuition to this book if it meant I could stay the whole year.” - Amelia Gray

“When it comes to the dance-hump mating rituals of art school kids, no one does it better or funnier or with as much stylistic aplomb as Rachel B. Glaser.” - Adam Wilson

“Uncouth, contemptuous, and terrific fun to read. Glaser thoroughly captures both the desperate intimacy of female friendships and the volatile magnificence of youth.” - Courtney Maum

“This novel is like what a mirror would write if it could type. Rachel B. Glaser has written a wildly funny, sharp, wonderful book that displays the light and dark, the lies and truths, of what it takes to make and keep a friend--without losing sight of oneself.”  -Lindsay Hunter

“Reading Paulina & Fran is like watching a beautiful woman expertly throw knives into a wall. Viciously funny, tender, and sexy all at once, every page full of deft and skewering observations. No one is spared.” - Catherine Lacey

“A gorgeous book of nerve endings, it manages to capture the rawness and restlessness of youth, friendship, and artists in the making. She gets to the bone of those quixotic, beautiful years when everything matters, most things hurt, and you don’t know who you are. I’ve never read anything quite like it.”  - Christopher Bollen

If your hair is curly and you’d rather it wasn’t, you have a number of options. Professional-grade flat irons reach up to 450 degrees, burn your hair into straight submission, and are available for about $100 (and up). If you'd like someone else to do the work for you: There are keratin treatments, which chemically smooth hair for about ten weeks, or hair-drying salons like Drybar, dedicated to leaving customers sleek and frizzless.
Opposite in ethos of these curly-to-not treatments are the products and companies urging customers to embrace their curls: Lines DevaCurl and Ouidad specialize in curly-hair care, while more general brands like L’Oréal Paris have added curl-specific products. And out of a long-standing beauty industry catering to women of color, new treatments and products have emerged, such as Folake Oguntebi’s GoodHair Salon, a drybar specializing in natural hair.
More than ever, hair happiness, via money and time, seems to be widely available to curlies (especially to white women, who have an easier time sidestepping race-related political and historical baggage in their styling choices). But I’ve noticed that the curl-positive and the curl-negative alike often serve their hair feelings with a side of angst.
Angst, in general, features heavily in Rachel B. Glaser’s intense and wholly original debut novel, Paulina & Fran. Students at a New England art school, Paulina and Fran are busy wondering how they fit into the world as artists (Fran is a painter, Paulina an art-history major), lusting after mythic-seeming fellow students, and doing the very serious work of dancing hard at parties. While Paulina is brash, outspoken, and determined to give life to her fantasies, Fran’s existence is quieter, content to dwell in daydreams. Friends for a brief, explosive burst, Paulina and Fran share a defining physical trait: curly hair.
Glaser’s novel is definitely curl-positive. On page one, Paulina touches her own “elegant auburn curls” and calls curly hair “the hair of creative geniuses” and “the mark of originality in a woman.” Our first glimpse of Fran finds her dancing alone in front of a just-shattered mirror, its shards reflecting how “light, curly hair whipped across her forehead.” Glaser’s protagonists aren’t above caring how they look — they both spend quite a bit of time defining themselves by what might be in the mirror. But looking beyond their own moods and actions to achieve a certain reflection never seems to occur to them. When it comes to their curls, Paulina and Fran take no direction.
Real-life curly-haired women (at least in the annals of fashion journalism) tend to crave a little more guidance. In 2011, the New York Times published Judith Newman’s “Making Waves, With No Apology.” Newman chronicles her own path toward curly-hair acceptance alongside our culture’s; in the end, she arrives someplace positive, but it takes a journey to get there. Three years later, the Times published “Curls Get Their Groove Back,” taking on curls as a trend (and making me wonder where the groove had previously gone). But the apparent trendiness is not without struggle: There are stereotypes to overcome (“loopy and zany and can’t be taken seriously”), ignorant stylists to avoid, special products to seek out. Fashion-website owner Claire Mazur says of curly-hair care that “there’s such a connection over the pain of figuring it all out.”
Almost eerily, a quote from Drybar founder Alli Webb, in Taffy Brodesser-Akner’s Times profile of the blowout business, echoes her words: “… there’s girls like me, who have curly hair, who have been figuring out this their whole life.” It’s striking that two women with drastically different curl philosophies — one curling them tighter, one blow-drying them into oblivion — chose the same language to describe their relationship to their curls. What is it about curls that takes so much figuring out, that leaves such a mark?
Glaser’s world has its share of curl struggle. (Once, Paulina’s curls “had been a ball of frizz. In the bathroom, she’d try to mat it down with water.") But there’s less of a sense of cultural forces at work here. The characters aren’t looking outward for cues about how to look; and if curly products dissatisfy them, they don’t waste time complaining. In fact, like Drybar’s founder, Paulina takes it upon herself to fill a need: In her case, this is making homemade hair products.
At this point, I have to wonder about women without curly hair. Straight-haired women: How does it feel? What struggles have you undertaken to be you, and do you have the right hair products? Is your first thought upon seeing a curly-haired woman I hope she’s not too zany? I have curly hair, and I would like to know.
The current curly-hair climate insists that an attitude adjustment can make curly hair okay (especially with the right products). But why the attitude adjustment, why the journey, why pile on the products? I love that these aren’t considerations in Rachel Glaser’s novel: Rather than emphatically bestowing curly-haired power on the crowns of these young women, this book does not acknowledge a world where it isn’t there already.
Their curl faith persists even in the bleak world beyond art school, where Fran lands a boring full-time job writing test questions and Paulina, fired from a restaurant job, successfully pitches her line of homemade beauty products to a beauty investor.
After discovering Paulina’s curl-world success, Fran asks a hairstylist to permanently straighten her hair, a process, he cautions her, that “erases your hair’s memory.” She travels to New York as a flat-haired Fran unsure of who Fran is, wishing she could go back to her curls. Curl evangelist Paulina, staring at the unrecognizable Fran hesitating in her lobby, considers the possibility of this young woman with straight hair. Paulina is lonely enough to open herself to this possible companion, while Fran herself hesitates.
What neither young woman fully realizes — yet, I think Glaser is gently telling us — is that the very nature of curly hair rejects all equations. It does not absolutely require tools to solve it, or some remapping of outside notions. I would go as far as to say the concept of curly hair as a finicky animal is misguided. It seems to me that curly hair can mean and be many things, can go in many directions. Even, should you feel like it, straight. - Jen Gann

When Paulina first notices Fran, she’s drawn to her blonde ringlets, quiet jokes and inventive outfits. These traits may sound like a shallow basis for friendship, but Paulina has a knack for granting purely aesthetic details an air of drama and importance. She is, after all, entering her senior year at a prestigious art school.
Along with the rest of their classmates, Paulina and Fran pay little mind to what they’ll do post-college, instead quibbling over guys, lazily drifting in and out of focus on artworks made in their respective mediums, and, most importantly, dancing. Fran’s an uninspired painter, Paulina a self-important temptress with an intense disdain for making art -- upon realizing this, she convinces the school to create an Art History major on her behalf. They forge a bond on a class trip to Norway, criticizing their classmates, meandering from discothèque to discothèque, buzzed from the high of youth and carefree travel. But the haze clears when Fran gets romantically involved with Paulina’s filmmaker ex, and the pair spends their final year of college begrudgingly admiring each other from afar. 
After graduating, they float on to careers in new cities -- Fran bouncing around odd jobs and landing in a test question-writing position, Paulina stumbling into luck with a curly hair product she invents -- but their time together remains a steady source of nostalgia and yearning. Glaser manages to capture the natural ebbs and flows of friendship, a murkier relationship to explain than romance, and one inexplicably explored less often in fiction. Female friendship in particular seems to have been deemed unworthy of literary merit, but Glaser is among those working wonderfully against that notion.
Her characters live in a world where the most damning insult you can utter is one involving bad hair. But, the emotions underlying their harsh quips are tender. Glaser doesn’t reveal these deeper motivations often, perfectly imitating the callous irony of youth. When she does break from the constant crescendo of confidently declarative sentences to bask in something quiet like a memory or a longing, she reminds the reader of the humanity shaping her self-consciously cool characters. 
It’s the sort of insight that can be afforded by the interior nature of a novel -- imagine if, while watching “Girls” or “Broad City,” the hilarious slacker girl jokes were interrupted by occasional insights into what Hannah or Ilana earnestly feels about her friends. It’d be a jarring disruption from the mood of the shows, but a welcome reminder that unbridled emotions are worth expressing, at least to oneself.
Of course, Fran and Paulina, trying as they are to construct manic pixie personalities, find such unbridled expressions embarrassing. So, they dance around genuine connection like superzealous partygoers, thumping to the beat of a new kind of fate unrealized. Glaser’s novel is charmingly devoid of tech-related missed connections -- what keeps her characters apart are their own pride-fueled insecurities.
The bottom line:
A funny, fast-paced story that follows the post-college life of a drifting, obsessive friendship, Paulina & Fran will appeal to everyone from fans of “Broad City” to Elena Ferrante devotees. 
Who wrote it?
Rachel B. Glaser is the author of the short story collection Pee on Water and the poetry collection MOODS. She got her MFA from UMass-Amherst, and her BFA from RISD.
Who will read it?
Those interested in female friendship, comedic writing and the weird intricacies of the art world.
Opening lines:
"Paulina was dissatisfied with her lover. He was too tall. He leaned on things. He thought he knew everything. Lying next to his sleeping body, Paulina considered his narrow, serious nose."
 Notable passage:
"A week later, they all graduated in faux silk, then, like trash in the water, floated off to lousy jobs in obscure towns and heartless cities. Terrible things happened in the news. People killed one another in inventive ways, and Fran read about it guiltily, as if her interest promoted it." - Maddie Crum

Female friendships are volatile, magical things, as torrid as any romance and as complicated as a Rubik’s cube. Rachel B. Glaser’s debut novel Paulina and Fran deftly captures the intricacies of female friendship, set against the backdrop of a New England art school. Glaser knows this world well, having earned her BFA in painting from RISD and her MFA in fiction writing from UMass-Amherst, and the affectations of art school are everywhere in these pages: hours of thrift store shopping, the angst of being one of the precious few artists who “make it,” the competition for fellowships, the constant workshopping and critiquing (both in and out of the classroom), and the anxiety about earning an art degree and whether it will pay off.
Paulina and Fran, both curly-haired artists, meet at a house party, where the studied, careful ennui of aspiring artists flows freely, along with the beer. Paulina fancies herself a queen bee and harbors a vicious side; Fran is unassuming, innocent, quieter.
Paulina stared, realizing Fran was friends with one of Paulina’s enemies. Paulina couldn’t remember which girl. Her idea of Fran darkened. She wanted to be her, or be with her, or destroy her. She watched Fran’s breasts bounce in her dress. No one in the room seemed to be connected to her. Her cheeks concealed things.

Later, the two bond on a class trip to Norway, and though Fran gets glimpses of Paulina’s cruelty, the attraction between the two young women develops into a fierce friendship neither of them quite understand, passionate and hurtful, as Paulina’s unruly sexuality and mean streak destroy Fran’s relationship with her boyfriend, who is also one of Paulina’s exes. Later, after an unexpected tryst in the bathroom at a party, the two women never talk again.
Once art school ends, like so many other art school graduates, they move to New York.
Fran could hear the voices of the visiting artists from her painting classes telling her to move to New York City. One couldn’t be a real artist out here, they insisted. One might flourish upstate, but only after making it in the city. She had to go to galleries, she knew. She had to suffer, and do her suffering in the right place.
Rachel B. Glaser
Rachel B. Glaser

Paulina finds herself homeless and unemployed, and Fran is barely scraping by, doing odd jobs, when things change. Fran gets a job in Ohio. Paulina finagles her way into a job interview, where she divulges that she makes hair products, which she names Supercurl. The business takes off, and Paulina is living the life she dreamed of, but she still thinks of Fran, who is in Ohio, writing standardized test questions for a living.
She lay on her back, staring into the chandelier, wondering where Fran was, hoping it was a dark, damp, wretched space, like a war trench or sewer…. She wanted Fran to suffer… there was still that bundle of misery that traveled along with her, that let out little mites of suffering, even while Paulina laughed, even while she gleamed.
As the years go by, the reader sees the lives of these two women evolve and intertwine, yet never really connect again.
Glaser has a knack for capturing the minute details of art student life and the struggles of artists in a big city. Paulina is not always likeable—in fact, she can be downright repulsive—but Glaser gives her a sadly sympathetic note. Likewise, Fran can be a bit of a doormat, a meek creature who needs a good kick in the ass, but the reader watches as she slowly comes into her own and eventually does what’s best for her. The surrounding characters—the many men Paulina beds, the female classmates—never really come to life.
Paulina & Fran is a book about the struggle to survive as an artist, a book about female friendship and love. But most of all it’s a story about the friend that got away.Jaime Rochelle Herndon

Rachel's blog:

Edward Mullany: «The sacred and the profane: a look at the cover of a book by Rachel B. Glaser»


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