Anastasia Lawrence is a 20-year-old college student whose ambition in life is to be a scholar of American literature. Taking a job at the school library to earn some money for grad school, she's assigned to sort through the attic rubbish donated by college alumni for purposes of tax deduction. There she finds a peculiar manuscript in an old document box given to the school by an art dealer named Simon Stickley. Very curious indeed: Titled "The Mighty Fallen", the pages in her hands appear to be the first, lost, novel of Ernest Hemingway. Obviously, it's the sort of discovery that can make a career. To find out more about the manuscript -- where it was hidden away and why -- Anastasia seeks out Simon. And falls in love with him.
Simon doesn't know what to make of her scholarly ambitions. After all, he's a businessman, and something of a social climber. So he introduces her, his attractive new girl, to wealthy clients at expensive dinners as "a writer." She is not -- in fact she can't string two sentences together on paper without some sense of embarrassment -- yet, to hold on to Simon, and appease his social ambitions, she becomes one: Telling no one, she plagiarizes Hemingway.
Presented as her own and neatly typed, that manuscript sells in a two-book deal for nearly a million dollars. The next Hemingway. A bestseller. She drops out of college. Simon marries her. Shortly after that, she wins the prestigious American Book Award.
And then the time comes when she has to write the next one. Contractually obligated by her publisher, monetarily overextended by her husband, pressured by critics and fans across the country... Everybody expects her to produce a sequel to "The Mighty Fallen".
Available exclusively in Russian translation through Eksmo Publishing, "Lighter Than Vanity" is the story of what happens to her, as told by a failed novelist named Jonathon, who she turns to as a friend and who, in exchange for his help, makes her become, reluctantly, his lover. It is a story most succinctly told in the first sentence: "Here, then, is the American Dream, our only natural born tragedy." Yet, Jonathon, for one, misunderstands it until the very last line.