Two weeks ago, Comic Strip staple Karen Bergreen released her debut novel, Following Polly. In two words, “It’s fantastic.”
Karen wrote Following Polly using her love of TV and pop culture as a backbone for a story that is both fun and insightful. It tells the story of Alice Teakle, a Harvard grad, an ex-paralegal, and an ex-casting assistant, who learns other people’s stories by following them, incognito, in their daily lives. It speaks to anyone who gets restless in her own life, is obsessed with television, or who loves New York City. (I call that a trifecta.) And on top of it all, a murder mystery unfolds and a romance blossoms. It’s a great summer read– the kind of book that makes you wish your train ride was just a few pages longer each day.
Coincidentally, Karen wrote a lot of this, her debut novel, on the subway en route to spots right here at the Comic Strip. She got the idea for Following Polly– what would it be like to follow someone around and learn about her life pre-Facebook– and writing the story was a way to let her fantasies about the myriad of possibilities play-out. Haven’t we all honed in on one particularly fascinating passenger on the train and wondered what his life was like? Wouldn’t it be nice to only worry about someone else’s life for a day or so? Isn’t following a random person’s schedule a lot easier and more spontaneous than keeping up with our own?
The book has met with positive buzz from customers and critics alike, including the New York Times. Karen calls the experience of writing her debut, “a lot of fun.” She explained the differences between writing a book and writing a set as being nuanced but “definitely there.” Primarily, the justifications required for a plot to move forward, for readers to not question the sequence of events, bears more weight than jumping from set-up to punchline for a joke. The plays on words that are a staple in her comedy routines don’t require as many justifications as are necessary when constructing an entire personality and history for a character in her book.
Obviously she was up for the challenge, as Following Polly has become a must-have summer read in two short weeks. We asked Karen what would be topping her summer reading list this year, and she said Susan Isaac’s As Husbands Go will be another great one to look out for.
In between all your reading, make sure to come into the World Famous Comic Strip Live and catch Karen on-stage the next time she’s here. And check out her website to find out more about readings and other appearances.