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Rachel-K
Posts: 1,495
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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NYC

At the novel's onset, most of the characters are outside New York City. Why might Messud have chosen to begin in this manner, when the major events of the novel happen primarily in New York City? At what other points in the book do the characters leave the city, and with what results?

What characteristics do you attribute to the city and its inhabitants, and how do you see the characters' perceptions of NY?
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Walrus
Posts: 20
Registered: ‎09-28-2007
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Re: NYC

SPOILER ALERTThe book hit home since I live in N.Y.C. and agree that the city is a character itself. I also hada daughter graduate from Brown in 1990 and the portrayal seemed true. We summer in the Hamptons also true. Hated to see Scarsdale portrayed as a haven for liberal Jews- lived there 35 years. Many would not be thrilled to have a gay son or his mixed Asian boyfriend visit for the holidays. So that could have had more discussion. Not familiar wityh the gay bar scene but it was frightening to think a college grad would not be concerned about safe sex in that day and age. Did Julius get what he deserved? Would like feedback eventually about David.
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IBIS
Posts: 1,735
Registered: ‎11-22-2006
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Re: NYC Subway: smelly, dark, underground beast.

I sympathized with Bootie when he entered the NYC subway for the first time. Although the subway system has improved tremendously in recent years, I still tremble with foreboding whenever I enter the NYC subway.

(p. 151) "He was at once fascinated and repelled by the crumbling girders, the prison grilles, the roar and the reek of it, piss and rot in the air..."

"When they stopped inexplicably in a tunnel in midtown, and idled there, belching, Bootie felt a panic skittering in him; the black corroded walls loomed too near the windows, the air grew immediately sparse, and more fetid. Momentarily, the lights went out, and the train, like some dying beast, exhaled. His throat was closing. His neck burned, and his ears."

I knew exactly what Bootie was going through. The writing captured the terror of the subway. Bootie was both fascinated and repelled by the subway, as if it were some horrible, smelly, old underground beast.
IBIS

"I am a part of everything that I have read."
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IBIS
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Registered: ‎11-22-2006
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Re: NYC--Central Park

NYC is so full of contrasts. The opposite of the dark, smelly subway is glorious, sunny Central Park in the springtime. I enjoyed seeing Central Park's multicultural citizenry parade before Bootie's fresh eyes.

(p.147) He marveled silently at the shapes in which New Yorkers came, skinny driven men and women, in work clothes or clinging sportsgear... great unwieldy creatures of indeterminate sex, pillowed giants rolling and jiggling beneath their loose T-shirts...and every size and shape between: Russian, Chinese African, Andean faces, all hues and proportions, a medley offered up to his occasional glance that as, to Bootie, his mother's Unicef calendar...brought to life."
IBIS

"I am a part of everything that I have read."
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bobzyeruncle
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Registered: ‎09-25-2007
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Re: NYC

[ Edited ]

Walrus wrote:
Not familiar with the gay bar scene but it was frightening to think a college grad would not be concerned about safe sex in that day and age. Did Julius get what he deserved? Would like feedback eventually about David.




Did Julius get what he deserved? And then some, I though he was the vilest of vile queens (and I'd have to think Bootie thought so as well).

Not talking about safer sex was an interesting choice. If he was 30 in 2001, then he pretty much grew up with the idea of HIV and safer sex, so it's sort of a non-topic. And by then, HIV had started to seem more of a manageable disorder (people weren't walking around like living skeletons and/or dropping like flies as they had been in the late '80s and early '90s). A noticeable lack of viral vigilance had begun to creep up, a reality that has been addressed on a number of fronts in recent years.

Drugs on the gay scene are pretty much party favors, although the coke J&D were doing seemed somewhat tame compared to the crystal and ketamine that was going around back then. Interesting, our narrator says J wasn't into drugs, just fascinated by David's use of them. I thought that was brilliant, and spot on ... J proclaims not to be interested, but given the chance he'll party in a heartbeat. And when he does, he goes out looking for trouble, pushing boundaries to see how much he can get away with.

SPOILERS ...

I know lots of Davids (the semi-closeted party boys of the suited and booted world), although I thought the climax of his and J's relationship was a bit over the top and I'm not sure I believe its ferocity. Granted David was in a state and seemed to have lost everything (although I can't believe he didn't get some kind of severance package and fell on the no-money thing so quickly). He clearly had some anger issues about that and then to watch his weasel of a geisha pull a trick in the toilet, right in front of him (Lower East Side bars are not spacious by any means, you can see everything) ... well, it was a bit much. We'd learned earlier on that Julius liked David being a little rough in bed (or am I making that up?), but for him to explode as a full-blown psycho seemed a bit out of the blue.

That said ... what if Bootie were telling the story (yeah, I know ... I keep coming back to this)? Would the narrator be giving J his comeuppance in spades because that's what Bootie wanted to happen to Julius? Could there be a bit of literary overkill in that fight?

Message Edited by bobzyeruncle on 10-09-2007 05:28 PM

Message Edited by bobzyeruncle on 10-09-2007 05:30 PM
:: :: ::

Bob
www.bobzyeruncle.com
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Walrus
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Registered: ‎09-28-2007
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Re: NYC

Dear Bob- if you have time read value etc. Interested in your response. Yhe tube in London way better than N.Y.C. but I'm here and it"s there so must make do. It still takes you faster than any other means unless flood or blackout.
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