By Betsy Rothstein - 06/08/05 12:00 AM EDT
Clickity clack. Clickity clack.
Here comes Jessica Cutler in black crocodile Manolo Blahnik heels across the shiny white floors of the Hart Senate Office Building. It is the summer of 2004, and if any man in Washington, D.C., knows what was good for him, these are the sounds to make him run — and fast.
Cutler, of course, is Washingtonienne, who burst into the spotlight last summer when she was fired for creating a sex blog that recounted her own adventures with a variety of Washington men. Anyone who read the blog will recognize the antecedents of her debut novel, The Washingtonienne (Hyperion Books, $23.95).
It is easy to feel sorry for Jacqueline, for hers is a loose, aimless-seeming life. But the author writes about her escapades so breezily, as if what Jacqueline is doing is normal, that sympathy seems out of place. The sexual acts in her blog and her book range from the normal, everyday variety to those reserved for the pages of Penthouse and Hustler, which, by the way, Jacqueline peruses on a slow day at the office.
Jacqueline’s self-destructive rampage is a lightning-fast read with lots of drugs and drinking herself into oblivion several nights a week. When all else fails, she snorts cocaine and finds that her day in the office is more productive than usual.
The book is a must-read for any Capitol Hill staffer or lobbyist, and anyone else even mildly associated with political life. If for no other reason, it serves as a warning: whom to be careful of, and whom not to hire.
Once you pick it up, it’s almost impossible to put down, no matter how annoying it is when our heroine overuses the phrase “f--- you very much” in place of “thank you very much.” It seems with Cutler, stupidity and courage are two faces of the same coin. Was it courageous or stupid or both for Cutler to write the blog that ultimately led to a big book deal?
Like other self-destructive characters — Robert Downey Jr. and Drew Barrymore come to mind — Cutler’s Jacqueline is easy to like. She’s funny and brash and makes fun of a way of life on Capitol Hill that has forever taken itself too seriously.
That doesn’t mean the book is a work of comic or satirical genius, or that it has any deep meaning; it is what it is: cheap, shallow and riveting in its depiction of a young woman self-destructing. There are laugh-out-loud moments — her blunt disdain for senators, any supervisor or anyone in power, really, is hilarious because it is so inappropriate:
“The wait for an elevator took forever, which made no sense since the building only had nine floors. Finally, one arrived. Two men in suits got out. Everybody stared at them, but nobody moved to get into their elevator. A sign above the closing doors read SENATORS ONLY. So I guess those guys were senators or something? They didn’t look important. All I saw were a couple of old men.”
Cutler is also no great fan of senators’ aides, even the ones with whom she is having sex. “Only a nerd would be attracted to legislative power, of all things,” she writes. And later: “Appropriations. Even the word bored me to tears.”
Is Washington really as sleazy as Cutler suggests? Reading the book will make you think your own life is a big bore. Or, it’ll make you feel as though you’ve just taken a bath in dirty water. You’ll be glad you’re not Cutler. But you’ll enjoy her book.