From Publishers Weekly
It's a familiar New York story: Joyce and Marshall Harriman's divorce battle escalates from a skirmish to a full-fledged territorial conflict, as both sue for custody of their coveted Brooklyn Heights co-op, and consequently they must both continue to inhabit it—along with their two small children, "their divorce's civilian casualties." Minor acts of domestic terrorism have become an unavoidable part of their daily lives, so when September 11 happens, neither is immediately very jarred. In fact, each thinks the other dead, and celebrates. Far from putting things into perspective, the tragedy and aftermath become a queasily hilarious counterpoint to the ongoing war to divide Joyce and Marshall's assets. Their pettiness reaches continuously lower depths – spying, psychological warfare and even anthrax comes into play. Joyce seduces Marshall's best friend, and Marshall sabotages Joyce's sister's wedding. The Harrimans enact the country's problems on their pathetically personal scale, but the novel miraculously manages to avoid patness or bombast. As in Jay McInerney's recent The Good Life
, Kalfus puts 9/11 up against the steel-plated narcissism of New Yorkers—with very different, and very funny, results. (July)
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Like their country, Marshall and Joyce Harriman, a Brooklyn Heights couple, are at war. They are one year into an impossibly bitter divorce, and their hatred for one another has "acquired the intensity of something historic, tribal, and ethnic." When Joyce watches the destruction of the World Trade Center she is seized by a "great gladness," because Marshall works on the eighty-sixth floor of the south tower. But he escapes to fight another day in the apartment that neither will relinquish, home to their two young children"their divorce's civilian casualties." Kalfus skewers the pieties surrounding 9/11, but, having set his black comedy in the shadow of that national trauma, he reverently charts the powerful sway that world events briefly held over the lives of individual Americans. As an Afghan émigré doctor who treats a rash Marshall develops after his escape observes, "Now you know what it's like to live in history."
Copyright © 2006 The New Yorker
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