Skip to main content

Book 18 of 52: Ellington Bouleavrd: A Novel in A-Flat

Who here likes musical theater? I like musical theater, but not in a "humming Rent while walking the dog" sort of way. Still, I have an appreciate for the silly songs, dance routines and simple plots that always end in a marriage knot.

If you are that "humming Rent while walking the dog" kind of person, you'll probably appreciate Ellington Boulevard: A Novel in A-Flat by Adam Langer (to be published January 22). You'll also get a kick out of it if you're a dog lover, and/or if you've had to deal with real estate within the last five years -- especially if you've had to deal with New York City real estate.

Maybe what I'm trying to say is that it's a likable story that will appeal to a wide cross section of people. It's a bit too simplistic for me to give it five out of five stars -- the plot is very predictable, but this book is, after all, a novel set up around a musical theater structure, so it's not surprising.

The story focuses on one New York City apartment in what had recently been deemed a section of the city ready for gentrification. Langer writes about the buyer, the seller, the broker, the owner, the buyer's dog and clutch of supporting characters in a revealing point of view: the third-bordering-on-first-person with a slightly omnipotent narrator. While the focus shifts from one characters' head into another, the reader can still read what another character is thinking.

It's not a particularly new point of view, but one I've seen a lot of lately. Cathleen Schine's The New Yorkers is the same way, using one New York City block and the dogs of select owners as the point around which the book revolves. The movie Love Actually , which has quickly become one of my favorite holiday movies, is the same, too -- I'd target the airport as that axis of rotation since it's where the movie opens and closes.

I'll admit that I could have lived without the musical correlations in Ellington Boulevard. They were cute, but, for me, distracting (maybe not so for anyone whose musical theater experience goes beyond second tier roles in Grease and Bye Bye Birdie).

My favorite parts were when Langer wrote from inside the head of Herbie, the tenant's dog -- and will be particularly touching if you've ever owned a dog who someone else got rid of. I laughed at the dog's thoughts of how he gets through gaps when his owner is not home, and his thoughts when processing familiar and new smells. I couldn't help but think of my pup, who snoozed on my chest while I finished the book and who, like Herbie, was abandoned and, I hope, feels at home now.

A lot of the people, too, in Ellington Boulevard have been abandoned, either by their lovers, their spouses, their job, their dreams or the city itself. It's not the kind of book someone who wants to go to New York to 'make it big' will want to read -- Ellington Boulevard is almost a precautionary tale against it, though the book also shows that not all is lost if the original dream is. Sometimes it's the revised goals that are the better fit.

After reading so much non-fiction, it was nice to get lost in a novel for a while. I read the bulk of Ellington Boulevard on Christmas day, which has long been a favorite habit of mine for December 25. I'm not sure what I'll read next -- I have three titles on top of my "to read" pile -- but I can tell you this: it isn't for an assignment. Not that I don't like assignments, but sometimes it's nice to be able to reach into a pile and pick whatever strikes my fancy...

Comments

I'm the kind of person who would hum songs from Rent while walking the dog, except I don't have a dog and I'd probably hum something more obscure. But it sounds like the kind of book I'd enjoy, so I'll check it out.

You might be interested in this new site for writers if you haven't already discovered it: http://www.redroom.com/what-beta.

Popular posts from this blog

Book 23 of 52: Because of Miss Bridgerton by Julia Quinn

More romance? Of course! The world is on fire, and I can't ingest all the fires all the time. Sometimes I want to turn to genre fiction as an escape, even if an escape is into a patriarchal society where it's SCANDAL that a woman sometimes, when riding a horse, wears pants. Because of Miss Bridgerton is the first book in Julia Quinn's Rokesbys Series , which are prequels to her enormously popular  Bridgerton Series  (and now a  Netflix show ). These books are similar, of course, but instead being set in the Recency era of the 1810s, these books take place at the same time as the American Revolution (though still in England).  Here we meet Sybilla "Bille" Bridergton, who is stuck on the roof of a building because she chased a cat up there. She climbed up herself (scandalous woman!) but also twisted her ankle in the process, which is why she needs help to get down.  That help comes from George Rokesby. Their families are neighbors, and they've known each other

Book 26 of 52: The Palace Papers: Inside the House of Windsor — the Truth and the Turmoil by Tina Brown

I'm not going to write a long review of Tina Brown's The Palace Papers: Inside the House of Windsor — the Truth and the Turmoil  for two reasons. First, it's been hashed to death already, as anything about the royals is, by people who are far more invested in this whole thing than I am. And second, I'm in the frantic "do I really need a jean jacket AND a windbreaker" level of packing before a long trip. I can say that I didn't mind listening to this nearly 18 hour audiobook while the rest of the world is on fire, although of course they are not insulated. We can pretend that the Royal Family lives in a bubble, but they are enormously influential; touched by the same issues of race, class and gender; and Queen Elizabeth II is one of most influential politicians of modern times — and she is a politician, no matter what anyone says. Her death will be a global, cultural moment. Same thing with the Pope, on both fronts. I listened to Brown's  The Diana Chro

Book 12 of 52: Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi

Marjane Satrapi is an author and graphic novelist who grew up in Iran and, as a tween and teen, lived in the country through  the Iranian Revolution before her parents sent her to Europe for school, and for her safety.  As an adult, she wrote Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood ,  a nonfiction graphic novel, originally in French. I read the English translation, which was published in 2003, three years after the original. It was a critical success, won a slew of awards, and became a movie . I haven't read the sequel, Persepolis 2 , but I hope to (you can also  buy them in a set . I found Persepolis  in a Little Free Library, or I'd have bought them combined).  In the tradition of Art Spiegelman's  Maus , which is about the author's father talking to him about the Holocaust,  Persepolis  is a memoir of trauma told through a mix of images and words that when combined, combust into powerful, beautiful and soul cracking art.  For example, Satrapi portrays the 1978 Cinema R