Weekend Cocktail Chatter

Slate’s handy guide to small talk.

Slate offers a quick and easy guide to help you fake your way through overly cultured cocktail parties this weekend.

Even if you haven’t yet gotten through Marisha Pessl’s 514-page Special Topics in Calamity Physics, you’ve read the great reviews—both of her book, which one reviewer called “hip, ambitious and imaginative,” and of herself (in Sunday’s New York Times Book Review, Liesl Schillinger calls her “distractingly pretty”). Sneak a peek at the dust jacket and commence drooling.

Let the battle of the hot young female authors begin! The 20-year-old Italian Melissa Panarello’s second book, The Scent of Your Breath, is out to middling reviews. Of course, it’s hard to top a “fictionalized memoir” about losing your teenage virginity and sleeping with as many men as possible.

In the other literary battle of the day, the anthology This Is Not Chick Lit has ruffled some feathers. If you’re going to engage in this controversy, you might as well come prepared: Curtis Sittenfeld’s June 2005 NYTBR review of Melissa Bank’s The Wonder Spot is a good place to start.

You find it tedious when your friends quote Onion headlines to you, especially since they’ve mostly failed to hit the mark lately. But last week’s “Bush Grants Self Permission To Grant More Power To Self“—now, that’s quotable. Is it premature to think it signals the Onion’s return to form?

If you move in WASP-y circles, parents might be concerned about the new prep-school video gameBully, which features a 15-year-old kid attempting to navigate the perilous world of boarding school. When everyone’s downed enough G&Ts, start a heated debate about the merits of Choate vs. Deerfield.

Amy Wilentz’s new book about intellectual life in Los Angeles … wait, did someone say intellectual life in Los Angeles?