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Triburbia: A Novel Hardcover – July 31, 2012
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The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
“Greenfeld’s sensitivity to nuances of the zeitgeist and his keen observational skills make his characters (some of whom will seem eerily familiar to longtime residents of downtown Manhattan) instantly recognizable as creatures of their time and place without quite denying them their humanity.” (Jay McInerney, New York Times Book Review)
“Greenfeld reveals his characters’ humanity with sly humor and an unerring eye.” (People)
“Greenfeld taps into something universal with Triburbia. . . . An accomplished journalist, Greenfeld brings a reporter’s curiosity and an artist’s empathy to his crackling, observant first novel.” (Entertainment Weekly (A-))
“Greenfeld is an acute social observer, but Triburbia is more than a chronicle of fading hipness; it’s also a loving examination of marital and family trials and ties.” (Boston Globe)
“The pleasures of Karl Taro Greenfeld’s writing are easy to catalog -- a crystalline, terrifically readable prose style; a vast repository of trenchant observations; and a caustic sense of humor that recalls Jonathan Franzen yet with a refreshing economy of speech.” (San Francisco Chronicle)
“Dubliners for the middle-aged downtown set. . . . Mr. Greenfeld’s prose is as lean and declarative as a newspaper article, though there are moments of creepy comic brilliance.” (The Observer)
“Triburbia is darkly humorous, occasionally lascivious, unsparing in its condemnations of the main characters and intrepid in its honest descriptions of the human conscience… But it’s not a sad book. It’s a candid one. And a good one. It is reassuring, cathartic even.” (Downtown Magazine)
“Triburbia is a snapshot of a Manhattan subculture at a certain moment in time. . . . An acclaimed memoirist and journalist turns to fiction to capture the spirit of his neighborhood in the full throes of gentrification.” (Shelf Awareness)
“Compelling. . . . Greenfeld brilliantly illuminates the pecking order and power plays behind the smug façade of this fashionable urban fortress . . . A surprising, involving, and strikingly perceptive tale of social and personal metamorphoses.” (Booklist (starred review))
“An absorbing first novel. . . . Greenfeld wields his critiques, humor, and observations to create a compelling little universe.” (Publishers Weekly (starred review))
From the Back Cover
Thrown together by circumstance, a group of fathers—a sound engineer, a sculptor, a film producer, a chef, a memoirist, a gangster—meets each morning at a local Tribeca coffee shop after walking their children to their exclusive school.
The sound engineer looks uncomfortably like the guy on the sex offender posters strewn around the neighborhood; the memoirist is on the verge of being outed for fabricating his experiences; and the narcissistic chef puts his quest for the perfect quail-egg frittata before his children's well-being. Over the course of a single school year, we are privy to their secrets, passions, and hopes, and learn of their dreams deferred as they confront harsh realities about ambition, wealth, and sex. And we meet their wives and children, who together with these men are discovering the hard truths and welcome surprises that accompany family, marriage, and real estate at midlife.
Fascinatingly layered and multidimensional, these linked stories, arranged like puzzle pieces, create a powerful portrait of unlikely friends and their neighborhood in transition. Striking chords that range from haunting and heartbreaking to darkly funny and deeply poignant, Triburbia marks the start of a brilliant literary career.
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Most simply, the fathers meet weekly for breakfast after dropping off their children at Tribeca’s elite elementary school. Soon the reader creates his own logic puzzle, piecing together each man’s partner, career, children, mistress and address. A ten-minute walking tour encompasses their lives: the children’s Hebrew school, paid for by the gangster whose daughter is bullied by the daughter of the sound engineer and his perpetually pot-smoking wife, who is sleeping with the playwright after his wife leaves him for the chef, through whose restaurant the sculptor threw a 90-mile-an-hour fastball, where the defamed memoirist’s wife was snapped by the photographer’s lens in the ‘90s, whose son spurns the blossoming crush of the sound engineer’s bully of a daughter. Neighborhood driven events unify the lives and equalize the differences created by class, race, disease, and gender. Ultimately one is left reeling by Greenfeld’s tangled web of humanity and at what boldness that probes into the strangers walking down the street.
Karl Taro Greenfeld's Triburbia is a literary version of the same exercise. This book of linked stories examines a group of residents of the Tribeca neighborhood in New York City, generally over the course of one school year, although a few stories are flashbacks. It's an interesting and captivating look at a group of fathers who get together each morning for breakfast at a local coffee shop after taking their children to school, as well as their wives, mistresses, and children. To those outside looking in, many of these people seem to have it all, but when you look closely at their lives, you realize they have many of the same struggles as everyone else.
There's the sound engineer who realizes he looks like the police sketch of an alleged sex offender who has plagued their neighborhood, the sculptor torn between two women and lamenting his willingness to give up his dreams, the philandering playwright who discovers his relationship with his wife improves once he moves out of the house, the famed memoirist who finds himself accused of fabricating his books, even the Jewish gangster who can fix any problem except helping his daughter win over the lead mean girl in elementary school. And those are just a few of the characters Greenfeld vividly depicts.
Interestingly enough, most of the descriptions of Triburbia I saw prior to reading the book made a minor mention of the linked stories concept, so I was surprised as I began reading it. But although it took a while for Greenfeld to begin connecting the characters, once he did, my only criticism was that some of the stories seemed too short, and I wanted to learn more about the characters' lives.
This book was a tremendously fast and enjoyable read, and Greenfeld is a very talented writer who was able to shift narrative voice from character to character very easily. This is one of those novels that captivate but don't wow you, although when you're finished you realize you enjoyed it more than you thought.