Sittenfeld, Curtis 1976(?)-
SITTENFELD, Curtis 1976(?)-
PERSONAL: Born c. 1976, in Cincinnati, OH; daughter of Paul (an investment banker) Sittenfeld; mother is an art history teacher. Education: Stanford University, B.A.; attended Iowa University Writers' Workshop, 2001.
ADDRESSES: Home—Washington, DC. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Random House, 1745 Broadway, New York, NY 10019.
CAREER: St. Albans School, Washington, DC, writer-in-residence, 2002–03, teacher of English, 2003–.
AWARDS, HONORS: Fiction contest winner, Seventeen, 1992; Annual fiction contest winner, Mississippi Review, 1998; Michener-Copernicus Society of America Award.
Prep, Random House (New York, NY), 2005.
Contributor to New York Times, Washington Post, and Fast Company.
SIDELIGHTS: "Lee Fiora, the unlovably self-conscious narrator in Curtis Sittenfeld's first novel, Prep, leaves South Bend, Indiana, to attend Ault, a fictional prep school outside Boston mostly because she was enchanted by the pictures in the brochure: gorgeous students in wool sweaters romping and lacrossing between classes in the fall foliage, buckling down in serious-looking campus buildings," explained Hank Stuever in the Washington Post. Substitute Cincinnati and Groton for the hometown and prep school, and that is roughly the story of Sittenfeld herself. That does not mean that her first novel is strictly autobiographical. As Sittenfeld told Felicia R. Lee in the New York Review of Books, "It was hard work to write it. I almost think some people think I went home one night, I had a glass of wine, pulled out my yearbook and got lost in my musings."
At any rate, Sittenfeld's background clearly provides her "an almost clinically accurate and absorbing glimpse into the daily life of an exclusive, privileged place," in the words of Stuever. Into this world comes Lee Fiora, desperate to fit in but almost hopelessly envious of the rich, self-confident WASPs who surround her in her new environment. On the other hand, she does have hidden resources of her own. As Carol Deptolla pointed out in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, "On the occasions she can bring herself to speak to her peers, Lee can be devastatingly funny; she's a poster child for all the people who have to rely on wit instead of wealth and punch lines instead of popularity." Eventually, Lee develops a niche cutting hair for the popular kids and ultimately attracts the attention of the big man on campus, Cross Sugerman. At the same time, she grows estranged from her own family, seeking to hide them during their visit to her new world, and drawing an angry apology from her father that he could not give her all the things she obviously values so much. Only after graduation does Lee begin to realize that there are more important things and a much wider world beyond the gates of Ault.
For Library Journal reviewer Elaine Bender, the plot of Prep "add[s] up to little more than the familiar picture," but for Booklist reviewer Michael Cart, "Saving the book from formula … are some fine writing and assorted shrewd insights into both the psychology of adolescence and the privileged world of a traditional prep school." According to a Kirkus Reviews contributor, "the boarding-school formula allows … Sittenfeld the comforting slippers-and-ice-cream haven of chick-lit while allowing much more in the way of psychological insight."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, December 15, 2004, Michael Cart, review of Prep, p. 709.
Entertainment Weekly, January 21, 2005, Rebecca Ascher-Walsh, review of Prep, p. 93.
Kirkus Reviews, November 15, 2004, review of Prep, p. 1067.
Library Journal, December 1, 2004, Elaine Bender, review of Prep, p. 103.
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, February 2, 2005, Carol Deptolla, "'Prep' Earns Good Grades as Readable School Story."
New York Review of Books, January 26, 2005, Felicia R. Lee, "Although She Wrote What She Knew, She Says She Isn't What She Wrote."
People, February 21, 2005, review of Prep, p. 48.
Publishers Weekly, February 14, 2005, Daisy Maryles, "Prep for Success," p. 14; November 1, 2004, review of Prep, p. 41.
Washington Post, December 12, 2004, Caitlin Macy, "School Ties," review of Prep, p. T7; February 23, 2005, Hank Stuever, "Move over, Holden," p. C1.
Curtis Sittenfeld Home Page, http://www.curtissittenfeld.com (April 14, 2005).
DCist.com, http://www.dcist.com/ (February 24, 2005), Austin Dienst, interview with Sittenfeld.