Books 2013 – Triburbia

The second book I’ve read this year is Triburbia by Karl Taro Greenfeld.

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Like many books these days, Triburbia is written in what I like to call Welcome to the Good Squad style. It reads less like a linear narrative and more like a collection of interwoven short stories. And the stories revolve around a group of fathers whose only common thread is the school their kids attend. They are men who, for the most part, consider themselves a bit cooler than the general population, among their ranks are a sound engineer, a sculptor, a playwright and a photographer. So they consider themselves somehow different from the bankers, stock brokers and financiers who have moved into their neighborhood and made it trendy. Some of them are rich, and some of them are not, and some of the stories are even written from the point-of-view of the women in their lives.

I kind of got the feeling that these guys were based (however loosely) on real life. There’s a guy whose memoir is found to have been falsified; a restaurateur who is expanding his empire and is famous enough to sell cookbooks and appear on TV; a playwright whose work showed promise at one point, but could never follow up on that promise; and a puppeteer, who at one point was involved with a Muppet-like empire. In many ways I felt like these characters were familiar, like I had seen them, or at least parts of them in real life.

Greenfeld does a great job of creating the atmosphere of this neighborhood, and I loved the way that all the lives were sort of intertwined. To be sure, many of the characters had some qualities about them that were not likeable, but I still found empathy for them, and I think that’s where Greenfeld excels. There are parts of the novel that made me laugh out loud, and other parts that were quite sad. Overall the writing quality is excellent. The book really captures a period of time in a particular place, and in that way, it’s a work of art.

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