Something’s not right in the Big Apple.
After an extended trip home (the south side of Chicago) to deal with the death of his mother, funk clarinetist Ike Morphy returns to find his apartment in the Roberto Clemente Condominium Building on Ellington Boulevard for sale. The problem is that Ike had a lease—sort of. It turns out that many years before he had made a handshake deal with the owner, Jerry Masler, but now Jerry’s son, Mark, can’t resist the boom in real-estate prices, so he tells Ike that unless he can come up with $650,000 he can count on kissing his $350 monthly rent payment goodbye. The dysfunctional couple interested in purchasing the condo consists of Rebecca Sugarman, a peripatetic English grad student but now a staffer on the American Standard, a venerable but dying magazine of short stories, essays and reviews, and her husband Darrell Schiff, a teaching assistant emeritus desultorily trying to finish his dissertation at Columbia. Each chapter of Langer’s latest (The Washington Story, 2005, etc.) changes focus from one character (or cluster of characters) to another. We learn of Mark’s pride in his two blisteringly brief marriages and his current courting of a much younger woman; of Jane Earhart (née Gigi Malinowski), whose juvenilia are turned into a bestselling novel and who creates a book for a musical entitled Ellington Boulevard; of Josh Dybnick, who pushes real estate but is really interested in theater; and of Herbie Mann, Ike’s pooch, rescued from the pound and prone to overhear human conversations. Like life in New York, it’s all a bit unreal—Rebecca falls in love with Ike, Darrell falls in love with Jane, and the apartment, let us say, reverts to its rightful owner(s).
A New York City novel par excellence.