All that Glitters
Commencing with a flashback of Brenda Gelb alias Alexa Vere de Vere as a young girl in the eighties and concluding with the present day discourse between Mike and Wyler, the beat that peers into the past relationship of Alexa and Mike grants the reader an opportunity to explore the roots of Alexa’s ambition. The passage offers a candid picture of Alexa before she becomes Alexa. Demonstrating Alexa’s quixotic notions and Mike’s encouragement and participation in her schemes, this beat provides necessary background information as to her previous character and to the catalyst that transforms her into a pathological liar.
Evil thoughts that metastasize into evil actions often begin with a dream. Appealing to the innate desire for fame and fortune found in many aspiring writers, Alexa bewitches Wyler into trusting her with his finances, a conniving ploy that becomes her livelihood. Born in West Reading, Pennsylvania, instead of India, Brenda Gelb assigns Mike the last name of Stabinsky to connote an old-money European sound to his name. She states: “WE are soul mates” (II, iv, 49). Although Mike is a homosexual, and she does not love him, Alexa devises a plan for the two to act as a power couple in New York City. He can paint while she can write, for “[her] insights are so uncanny and [her] vocabulary is just so whatever it’s so huge” (II, iv, 50). Ironically evincing Alexa’s hackneyed speech, this statement foreshadows her cognizance of her own manipulative abilities which allows her to properly take advantage of people.
Interpolated with penetration from the present, this beat contains occasional commentary from Wyler that portrays his interest in Alexa’s past. Alexa fixes her sights on art since she notes the prevalence of galleries in the East Village and encourages Mike to put on an art show (II, iv, 51). Alexa is ebullient when fantasizing about her plan as she rambles about her acquaintance with a man who holds influence over a news source. Each time Mike poses a rational point about the absurdity of Alexa’s chimerical schemes, she counters him by downplaying the work involved in setting up the gallery and by gushing over his artistic skill. Alluding to ephemerality of seller’s markets, Alexa states “Eternal isn’t as long as it used to be” (II, iv, 51). This idea depicts Alexa’s view that life is transient and that nothing in life is immutable. Believing this philosophy allows Alexa to construct a powerful profile for herself despite her relatively mundane upbringing. With a flair for the foreign, Alexa understands the need for a European-sounding “name with a hyphen” (II, iv, 52) to attract affluent art aficionados to the gallery. Alexa mocks Mike’s wordplay of “blue in the face” in deciding the gallery’s name, which implies that her victims are blue in the face because they fall for her scam (II, iv, 52). Following the decision, stage directions whisk the audience back to the present.
Ambitious and artistic, Alexa is perceptive enough to realize the need to recreate herself into a diamond-cladded socialite. She uses her acumen to appeal to people’s vulnerabilities so she can benefit financially. Without this passage, the reader would most likely not possess an adequate view of Alexa with her early fanciful dreams of New York City. In judging Alexa for her future actions, the reader perhaps would be unable to form a credible opinion without insight into Alexa’s pseudo-relationship with Mike. As a sociopath, Alexa starts at the opportunity to gain for herself, and she temporarily lives the life of a movie star. All of the major names know of her; she shops at Bergdorf’s; she frequents the Four Seasons. Unrestrained by a conscience, Alexa heedlessly seduces her victims with the thought of endless money and fame and enjoys the immediate satisfaction of successful conning. Unfortunately, her life is devoid of meaning when stripped of all the glamour, for the long term effects of her plotting result in a complete exposition of her true character, thus utterly ending her days as a remorseless high-society con-artist.