One-Minute Book Reviews

October 26, 2006

Karyn Bosnak, Godmother of Internet Panhandling

Filed under: Memoirs — 1minutebookreviewswordpresscom @ 6:18 pm
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A compulsive spender tells how she got out of debt by asking for cash from strangers on the Web

Save Karyn. One Shopaholic’s Journey to Debt and Back. By Karen Bosnak. HarperPerennial, 444 pp., $13.95, paperback.

Still wondering how you’re going to pay the credit card bills for the vacation you took in August? Or for that flat-screen TV you bought when it looked as though the Mets still had a shot at the World Series? How about posting a notice on the Internet asking people to send cash — no strings attached — to your PayPal account?

If that idea sounds bizarre, consider the experience of Karyn Bosnak, a pioneer in the field of Internet panhandling. In her late 20s Bosnak ran up more than $20,000 in debts for bikini waxes, BCBG T-shirts, meals at Zagat-rated restaurants and other necessities of life for single women in Manhattan. Unwilling to blight her credit rating by declaring bankruptcy, she appealed for cash on her Web site and her plan worked almost too well. After newspapers began writing about her, Bosnak got hate mail from people infuriated that she wanted help paying for her Princess Tam-Tam underwear. (After all, she had rationalized at Saks, “how ‘out of style’ can underwear go?”) Other people sent euros, Chilean pesos, and Korean wons.

With her liquidity further enhanced by a movie deal, Bosnak tells her story in a chatty, exclamation-point-strewn memoir that needs to be read with some caution. Bosnak admits she lied about her age on her site and has “taken certain liberties to help move the events along” in Save Karyn, which leaves open the question of whether it has invented scenes. Even so, her disarming frankness about her appeal — and how she got into such a mess — shows a kind of genius for self-promotion. How many other authors would have the courage to show copies of their credit card bills at the beginning of each chapter?

Best line: “I do not like the name Internet panhandling because I choose to think that I provided loads of entertainment to people, and in exchange they gave me some cash to show their gratitude for making them laugh.”

Worst line: “I couldn’t flip through the racks quickly enough. Surely my blind date would fall in love with me if I wore an outfit from here! Then we’d live happily ever after!”

Recommended if… you enjoy reading about people who are even worse at managing money than you are, especially if they sound like Valley Girls and buy shoes at stores with cute names like Otto Tootsie Plohound.

Editor: Alison Callahan

Published: 2003 Bosnak also wrote 20 Times a Lady: A Novel (HarperPaperbacks, 2006).

Posted by Janice Harayda

(c) 2006 Janice Harayda. All rights reserved.

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