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TriburbiaReview - Triburbia
A Novel
by Karl Taro Greenfeld
Harper, 2012
Review by Christian Perring
Nov 6th 2012 (Volume 16, Issue 45)

Here's another book that does better as an audiobook than it does in print.  I first tried reading it as an e-book, and Greenfeld's first tiresome self-involved narrator soon lost my interest, and that soured the experience of the whole book.  I tried skipping to later sections to see if it got better, but it was hard to get into.  But the unabridged audiobook is performed by seven readers, the different narrators of the connected stories.  These readers really help to being out the differences in tones between the stories, and there is real pleasure in recognizing the characters from previous stories coming up from a different perspective in later ones. 

The theme of the book is simple: these are stories of people living in Tribeca, a small fashionable section of Manhattan, bordered by Canal Street on the north and the World Trade Center on the south, to the west of Broadway.  As with many New York neighborhoods, it has been yuppified, and when it the past one would be nervous to walk down the streets with warehouses late at night, one is now safe among the wealthy hip families with young children in strollers.  So Greenfield gives a portrait of a neighborhood changed by money, first occupied by bohemian artist types who need cheap rent, and then by people who have made it.  Fancy restaurants and coffee shops pop up, and the older stores disappear. 

The narrators of these stories are all very flawed; some are charming, while others will grate on you.  It really helps if you have some knowledge of New York City in the 1990s and the 2000s because then it is much easier to get all the references the narrators make to parts of city life.  They tell their stories of their marriages, their parents, their children, and their neighbors, and although people hang out together, they never really seem to much like each other.  Most of the narrators are men in their 30s and 40s, struggling with their lives in one way or another.  A lot of them use drugs to cope with the pressures they face; others have affairs, and a few find some kind of contentment. 

The audiobook is entertaining and clever, and it brings out the strengths of the text.  The stories are all a little disconcerting, full of bizarre behavior, with no happy endings.  This makes for a very distinctive portrait of a part of Manhattan over a particular time period, and makes the book memorable, even if it makes you wary of anybody who actually lives in Tribeca. 

 

Link: Dreamscape Media

© 2012 Christian Perring        

Christian Perring, Professor of Philosophy, Dowling College, New York


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