The Fine Art of Fucking Up (Paperback)
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The Fine Art of Fucking Up is the story of a weekend in the life of Nina Lanning, former graduate of the prestigious School of Visual Arts, or SVA, who has built a career for herself not as an artist, but as the school's lone administrator. Her former teachers, now friends and colleagues, are pioneers of contemporary art movements, inspirational speakers, and the sources of constant headaches as they rail against the authority that Nina represents. Dunbar, a professor with a restraining order against him by his own school, molds gourds in the shape of Nina's face and fries bacon illicitly to taunt her with his illegal presence. Nina's own superior Ramona Holme, an esteemed printmaker, is now a woman obsessed with a fictional romance hero. Her once innocent collection of rare romance novels has turned Ramona, a lover of all things vintage, into a lonely woman lost in the world of cheesy romance, especially those featuring 80s hunk Lucky V. on their cover. With Ramona holed up in her office and living a fantasy, Nina is left at the helm of the SVA. Nina's husband Ethan, a professor at a neighboring university, is anxious to have a baby. Nina resists and slowly realizes that while she is not against having a baby per se, she does not want to have one with Ethan. Ethan has also taken it upon himself to invite one of his students, a Chinese foreign exchange student called Gary, to spend the summer with them. Gary speaks little to no English but is still able to irritate Nina as he consumes hot dog fajitas, and immediately begins wearing Nina's favorite bathrobe. Meanwhile, a record-breaking storm is going to create a once in a century flood, and the rising waters threaten to destroy the SVA, a building perched along the riverbank. At the morning faculty meeting, Nina breaks the news to the professors, who frantically make efforts to salvage the art and supplies trapped inside. They barely have time to evacuate before Campus Police Officer Bigelow arrives to tell them that it is too late, they are padlocking the building. Forced to evacuate, Nina and the faculty leave nearly everything behind and at the mercy of the flood, including the SVA's priceless Jackson Pollock painting and, they begin to suspect, Nina's boss Ramona. Running out of time and options, Nina and her friends embark on a hilarious caper to save what matters most to them. Compelled by disasters both natural and personal, Nina must confront the possibility that unlike the Pollock, her own marriage to Ethan may not be worth saving. The Fine Art of Fucking Up is about what happens when the people closest to you are your coworkers, when your life doesn't quite pan out as expected, and when high art clashes with reality.
Cate Dicharry lives in Iowa City, Iowa, with her husband and two small sons. The Fine Art of Fucking Up is her first novel.