Wednesday, October 08, 2008

I love livin' in the city

Where do you move after decades in the foreign press spent dodging bullets in Africa and losing a baby while covering violence in Chechnya? Why to West Harlem of course. Judith Matloff writes about buying a house on street given primarily to drug dealing. It is at once a story of figuring out how to live with dangerous people, how not to work on a house and how to keep a healthy marriage in a bizarre situation.

The center of everything is the house. As you might imagine, years of squatting has led to a house in less than ideal shape. Having never worked with contractors before, things of course go badly as when the contractor's window plans lead a wall to collapse. This is bad enough, but when your seemingly homicidal neighbor (known as Salami) threatens to take the house when he gets the chance, it is all the worse.

This makes the book sound rather bleak, which it isn't. In fact, it is rather cheery overall, in the sort of what-kind-of-crazy-thing will happen next sort of way. For the most part, the denizens of her street are colorful rather than frightening, from the realist drug lord to the literature loving homeless person.

Matloff is a professional journalist and she knows how to tell a story. While she will make you think about where you might want to live, she will also make you think twice about a remodel.


Citizen Reader said...

Awesome book. I loved it too. I gotta say, though, I don't think I'd be gutsy enough to try living where Matloff did. Even if I love New York.

Tripp said...

Oh I know I wouldn't. I am too risk averse. She makes it seem so easy! But still, no.