FLORRY OF WASHINGTON HEIGHTS by Steve Katz

FLORRY OF WASHINGTON HEIGHTS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

After the avant-gardism and experimental pyrotechnics of works like Moving Parts (1977) and Stolen Stories (1984), Katz--author also of Wier & Pouce (1984)--writes a nostalgia-touched and familiar-as-an-old-sneaker narrative about high-school kids growing up in far-uptown Manhattan in the 1950's. William (Swanny) Swanson is a member of the New York Bullets Social and Athletic Club (readers of Wier & Pouce will remember this club), and the story here has to do with Swanny's bringing a tentative peace to the neighborhood by earning the respect of another gang, the fiercely warlike Fanwoods (mainly Irish). Things are set in motion when one of the Bullets starts going steady with pretty Florry O'Neill, previously the girlfriend of the Fanwoods' ruthless and menacing leader, Jack Ryan. War is threatened against the peaceful (and mainly Jewish) Bullets, who are more interested in getting their baseball team organized than in fighting. Swanny tries to calm things by making a peace-foray into Jack Ryan's turf, but a rumble (of sorts) ensues anyway, and, in an event too big for this otherwise slim narrative, pretty Florry is murdered and raped. At end--the loss of Florry all but gone flora the reader's mind--the Bullets earn a grudging respect by beating the Fanwoods at baseball, in a climax touched by symbols of the melting pot and of good, clean fun; and Swanny ends as the unsung hero by making the winning hit (it's a bunt, hit as much off his eye as off his bat--a device used also in Wier & Pouce). Filled with detail of the period--egg creams, candy stores, popular music--the novel nevertheless has trouble getting under the surface of its material, or inside the lives of its often surface-developed (including Florry) characters. Though there are frequent reaches for depth--when the narrator, for example, mouths authorial words suggesting the significance of a historical context (""what planet do those guys advocating nuclear buildup think they live on?"")--the efforts, in general, are too mechanical and too little of a piece to breathe a deeper life into this small, adolescent story.

Pub Date: June 20th, 1987
Publisher: Sun & Moon