Author(s): Ali Liebegott
Francesca, a disgruntled nineteen-year-old lesbian, tries desperately to pull together the pieces of her scattered life. This hilarioius, heartfelt novel opens with Francesca newly arrived in San Francisco. She has fled her hometown, where she rented her childhood room from the new family who moved in when her parents moved out. The new tenants happened to be her childhood babysitter and her alcoholic husband. But Francesca’s move to San Francisco is no mere coincidence. A lonely virgin searching for her sexual identity and obsessed with her philosophy teacher, Francesca has followed her professor, Irene, to California, where Irene has relocated to live with her young male lover and former student.
Once in San Francisco, Francesca is forced to work at the local pancake house. Much to her dismay, she has to wear a ridiculous Heidi of the Alps uniform — which is almost as humiliating as serving the array of speed freaks and other graveyard shift misfits. Suicidal and euphoric, Francesca seeks solace in anything and anyone who might distract her from her unrequited love for Irene. More than a coming of age story, The IHOP Papers is a comic portrait of survival and self-discovery on the IHOP late shift.
Liebegott's debut novel is a coming-of-age coming-out in the tradition of Rita Mae Brown's Rubyfruit Jungle, but here, the portrait of an artist as punk waitress is more a celebration of sexuality than humanity. Twenty-year-old Francesca is a recovering drunk who finds comfort in cutting herself and harbors fantasies of her beautiful AA sponsor, Maria; her former philosophy teacher, Irene; and a soap opera heroine. "I wanted everything: Irene's cheekbones, empathy, and wisdom... the sheer beauty and curves of Maria-and the impossibility of Hope from Days of Our Lives," she confesses. Having followed Irene to San Francisco, Francesca lands a job at the International House of Pancakes, dreams of becoming "the kind of waitress who can carry five plates on each arm and glide around the room doing a dance of pancakes" and works on her memoir about losing her virginity and never quite finding love. The Lambda Literary Award-winning Liebegott (for her book-length poem The Beautifully Worthless) offers strikingly lyrical moments in an otherwise frank narrative of a writer teetering between adolescence and adulthood. (Feb. 13) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Francesca is a 20-year-old lesbian hopelessly infatuated with Irene, her community-college philosophy professor. Irene has taken a sabbatical to live in San Francisco for the year, and Francesca, at loose ends, follows her there in hopes of being included in her inner circle. The narrative traces Francesca's struggles to make sense of her feelings for Irene as well as Irene's complex relationship with Jenny and Gustavo, coinhabitants of Simplicity House, as they call their communal house, which is anything but simple. In her debut novel, Liebegott (creative writing, Univ. of California, San Diego; The Beautifully Worthless) is at her best when regaling the reader with life at the International House of Pancakes (IHOP), where Francesca works as a waitress to pay the rent, and anyone who has ever waited tables will relate. In her own na ve way, Francesca makes hilarious, on-target observations about Irene's self-centered idealism and her penchant for surrounding herself with people who worship her. But the true center of the story is Francesca's own sense of self-worth and her struggle to find her way amid the craziness. Recommended for larger public libraries.-Caroline Mann, Univ. of Portland Lib., OR Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Schoolgirl crush frees a young waitress to escape the 'burbs for San Francisco. Francesca's friends think she's wonderful-and why wouldn't they? Beneath a thin veneer of hip cynicism, she's thoughtful, brilliant and genuinely kind. She's also abject and self-destructive, qualities that endear her to her philosophy professor, Irene. The book begins as Francesca follows Irene to San Francisco, hoping that Irene's pity will turn to love. But the story truly gets underway when Francesca realizes the steepness of the price for being near her idol. Irene, it turns out, is no saint. She seems to collect needy students, and already lives with two young lovers, Jenny and Gustavo. Dejected, Francesca ends up in a tiny apartment in a seedy part of town, supporting herself by waitressing at IHOP. And while she waits for her luck to change, she develops a fulfilling, if eccentric, routine. She writes in her journal, tries to figure out how to get a girlfriend, attends AA meetings and seduces the occasional woman. The novel is supposed to be Francesca's journal, and although it is filled with love-sick meditations about women, Irene in particular, it is also filled with impressively realized vignettes about Francesca's customers, her parents and her lovers. Part of Francesca's personality (and part of the story's considerable force) is her fine ear for the tenor and cadences of other people's speech. Francesca is keenly observant; she can mimic her father, her mother and her friends without mocking them, and she is saved from an unbearably coy quirkiness by her readiness to believe anything anyone tells her about herself. Watching Francesca realize how much she loves her little apartment, her newfriends and even her grubby, smelly uniform is one of the many satisfactions here. Tender writing about a raw life.
Ali Liebegott’s work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. Her book-length poem, The Beautifully Worthless, was published to acclaim in 2005. She has performed her work throughout the country, including twice with Sister Spit’s Ramblin’ Road Show. Liebegott is a recipient of a Poetry Fellowship from the New York Foundation for the Arts. She teaches creative writing at UC San Diego.