A young, hungry assistant pays her dues while working for a near-impossible boss with a psychotic streak. Sound familiar? Yes, the easiest way to summarize Debra Ginsberg's Blind Submission would be to call it The Devil Wears Prada set in the book publishing world, but this debut novel's sharp writing and intriguing mystery elements turn what could be the same old story into something fresh and new.
Angel Robinson is completely happy living and breathing books in her job at an independent San Francisco bookstore. Then, slow business forces the store to close, leaving Angel unemployed. Encouraged by her novelist boyfriend, Angel successfully applies to be the new assistant to powerhouse literary agent Lucy Fiamma.
Angel quickly finds herself both fascinated with and overwhelmed by this new world. Lucy compliments Angel when she rescues a sexy Italian memoirist's manuscript from the slush pile, but she also leaves impossible to-do lists and creates an atmosphere of instability with her fickle ways. And there's the added drama of an anonymous writer submitting chapters of a novel one at a time. Angel is intrigued by this nameless scribe's work, until the tale starts to eerily resemble Angel's own life. Is someone spying on her? Her boss, her boyfriend and her co-workers all become suspects as Angel attempts to learn the identity of this mysterious writer.
The shell of the story is hardly novel (is the potential pay-off of a demanding entry-level job worth the sacrifice to sanity and relationships?), but the suspenseful who-wrote-it sets the novel apart from other so-called assistant lit Angel has bigger problems than fetching a complicated Starbucks order. Memoirist Ginsberg (Waiting, Raising Blaze and About My Sisters) clearly knows the ins-and-outs of the publishing world, and Blind Submission offers an engaging look at the backstabbing that takes place behind the books. Iris Blasi is a writer in New York City.