Sunday, April 10, 2011

The Heights, by Peter Hedges

I picked this one up while I was wandering around Brooklyn's central public library waiting for Internet time. It looked like a nice light New York City-centric story to enjoy on my lunch breaks. Which, I guess it was, because that's what I did with it. Or, I read it during lunch, anyway. "Enjoy" might be a stretch. I found the characters to be neither believable, nor, worse, likable. But I guess I cared enough about what happened to see it the whole way through, so it must have had some appeal.

The Heights is about a middle-class couple with two boys struggling to make ends meet in Brooklyn Heights, a tony neighborhood one train stop from Manhattan that's home to a lot of Wall Street types and old money. Brooklyn Heights is my favorite rich neighborhood in Brooklyn. It's not trendy at all; I consider it to be more "classic." The streets are lined with gorgeous old co-op buildings, 19th-century rowhouses, and normal places like a plain old not-organic grocery store, a nice liquor store, coffee shops, a health food restaurant, dark old bars, a ratty old movie theater, even a diner.

In addition to neither half of the couple seeming like a real person, the other characters were even worse. They all appeared to be excuses to make up the most old money-sounding names the author could think of, like Anna Brody-Ashworth and Claudia Von Somethingorother. Hedges also does something that I found really annoying in Super Sad True Love Story, which is filling the book with unnecessary specific New York detail. Does it really matter whether someone walks down Hicks or Henry street on their way to the 2/3, and that they pick it up at Clark Street as opposed to say Borough Hall? Does it matter whether they live on Orange, Cranberry or Pineapple? Gary Shteyngart's characters were forever taking the F here or there. Why does it have to be the F? How does that detail help anyone who isn't familiar with the city? Or anyone who is, for that matter, because if you recognize his Lower East Side location and you know the characters are going to Midtown, you don't need to be told it's the F. Are such a huge percentage of their readers occasional visitors to NYC who will feel oh-so-in-the-know because they've been to the Connecticut Muffin on Montague Street? I really don't get this at all.

Plus, it shows that the details had no relationship to anything like a creative process, being 100 percent copied from real life.

One star.

1 comment:

naomi said...

You know what, I also hated this book. I wanted to light it on fire. And i only spent 99P (2 dollars) on it. Let me recap the dust jacket blurb "Couple so and so and so and so meet dashing, glamour puss neighbor who brings them into her life of excess and drama... but who's playing whom?" (Basically). Honestly, that couldn't have been FURTHER from the fluffy, dishy, gossipy insider "The EX Mrs. HedgeFund" that I was looking for based on that description alone. God dang you, blurbs!
My main complaint was that there was no motive to the main femme fatale's actions (for example, she is noted as cutting her hair shorter and shorter and becoming less attractive during the novel- why? whoooo knowwwssss?). If you want to swallow your college degree and read a suprizingly well written expose of NYC upper class life, read "One Fifth" by Candace Bushnell. I hated "SATC" by her, but her other books are much stronger and don't have that carbolic whiff of hatred that SATC does. But yeah, hated this book. Hated.