Getting past all of these prejudices, I started to read the book and was immediately struck by Waldman's brilliance as a novelist of manners, a sort of Edith Wharton of our own Gilded Age 2.0. Part of what makes her portrait so sharp is the way that the sexual and social mores of her characters are so infiltrated by the same distaste that had kept me from the book in the first place. Not only does she find the symbols of status in the capital of cool, but she notes, witheringly, how part of the status comes from being aware and wary of the status symbols that invest meaning in one's own life, as if Wolfe's sincere cry for reportage has been cross-pollinated (at a local organic greenhouse) with David Foster Wallace's "E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction," which argued, back in 1993, that television had already colonized the irony that had helped previous generations of writers stay fresh. When the titular Nate tries to apologize to Hannah, the book's other main character, Hannah pulls on every Will Ferrell movie ever and replies: "Ah, the self-deprecating dude routine . . . 'What a loveable fuck-up I am.' The annoying thing is that it makes you look good but doesn't get me anything."