Stately McMansions

KANFER, STEFAN

Stately McMansions From the Hamptons, a comedy of manors. BY STEFAN KANFER The comic novelist Peter De Vries was celebrated for snippets of memorable dialogue. One of my favorites occurred during...

...Where to begin...
...His children have flown the nest...
...The Hispanic workers across the way refer to him as Senor Moment...
...I take care of myself...
...Harry hates Lapham's parvenu plans...
...Lapham Rising contains a number of such confrontations, along with quotes from classic authors lamenting their own timesóHesiod is one of Rosenblatt's favorites ("Fairness and moderation are no longer esteemed...
...What's wrong...
...Hector is an unusual canine...
...No one gives kudos...
...As a beautiful neighbor dives into Long Island Sound, for example, Harry remarks that a hush seems to fall over the posh suburbs: No one asks where the potato farms have gone...
...Its narrator, a blocked, curmudgeonly writer named Harry March, lives alone on an island within an islandóLong Island, N.Y., to be precise...
...Everything you wear is ten years old...
...His next book, Stardust Lost, a history of the Yiddish theater, will be published this year...
...Rosenblatt has taken this sound advice to heart...
...Then again, Harry hates everything...
...Imagine my surprise when I learned that, after Rosenblatt left the magazine, he became the editor of US News and World Report, a publication I never read...
...He not only talks back to Harry, he's also a born-again evangelical as well as a believer in free-market capitalism...
...Evidently these have been gnawing at him, too...
...And it will be great.'" Not long afterward, the long-suffering Mrs...
...The couple attended a grand dinner party, along with people with such De Vriesian (or Dickensian, or for that matter Joe Hellerian) names as Bobo de Pleasure ("the conservative columnist with a liberal flair, whose own popular Let's Get Ahead by Agreeing with All Sides had just been reissued...
...One of my favorites occurred during an exchange between a New Englander and a Southerner: "How do you know...
...No Filipino housekeeper is yelled at for failing to position the fruit forks correctly...
...He curls up and licks his genitals, thinking that proves the case...
...March headed for Splitsville...
...Parkyer Carsir ("the gossip publisher...
...Who but a misanthrope would live like this...
...No one embarks on an exciting new phase of his life, or comments that life is a journey...
...the tears running down their cheeks will not be from merriment alone...
...But March overrides them all, and with good reason: Our own epoch is uniquely coarse and triumphantly vulgar, and never more visibly so than on the manicured playing fields of the Hamptons...
...At the gathering, a chorus sounded from each of the tables...
...Something about a last straw...
...Ultimately Harry was called upon to inform the crowd of his latest undertaking: "I gulped down my fourth Margaux and decided that I would be more visible and more effective if I stood on the table...
...Tom who...
...Hence he cheers on Lapham, builder of an ostentatious home rising just across the way...
...In his spare time he seems to have published 11 books, starred in an autobiographical one-man off-Broadway show, written another play that featured Ron Silver, and recently composed the offBroadway hit, Ashley Montana Goes Ashore in the Caicos, with Bebe Neuwirth as its centerpiece...
...Given the current trivialization of said publication, that gag would no longer work...
...I am going home to give myself an enema...
...and Eely Moray, a television host about to forsake broadcasting in order "to found his own church based on the teachings of Joseph Campbell...
...Stung, his master responds, "What's wrong with the way I live...
...But there was a time when it did...
...During that fondly remembered period, the drollest and most instructive of the bygone staffers was a chap named Roger Rosenblatt...
...Then he had better watch where he walks...
...It consisted of the word great...
...He will not be shot on sightó not until the Island's A-list folks take a second look at Lapham Rising...
...Likewise the duck farms...
...Hour, a program I never watch...
...b) He had not written a novel...
...And what about your appearance...
...Tail...
...And your appearance...
...From time to time I always wondered what had happened to him...
...Lapham Rising brims with word play: March's place is called Noman, so that when people ask where he lives he can reply, "Noman is an island...
...Because Tom said so...
...Hector wonders why one can't serve both God and mammal...
...I know...
...No one has a better ear for the Hamptons' hautes clichés than Rosenblatt...
...The director/scenarist Billy Wilder once advised a colleague, "If you are going to tell people the truth, be funny or they will kill you...
...No year-round resident is pushed aside at a farmers' market...
...This evening,' I said, 'this very evening...
...I am not privy to his global plans, but I note that Lapham Rising, Rosenblatt's debut on the fiction list, has just been published...
...and that he heads a writing department at Stony Brook University, an institution from which I did not graduate...
...And everybody...
...that subsequently he contributed, and still contributes, discerning essays to The Jim Lehrer News Stefan Kanfer is the author of Groucho and Ball of Fire...
...No one asks anyone else to a small dinner just for close friends, or wishes there were more time to spend reading quietly on the beach away from all the big parties...
...He won numerous awards for his work...
...Or draws raves...
...Manifestly, the author has been paying close attention not only to ancient Greek poets but also to modern filmmakers...
...They were also about to embark on new projects which were themselves great...
...After a choir of greatness, the hostess asked her guests, one by one, to stand up and tell the others what great things he or she was up to...
...I'm perfect," he says...
...No one lowers his voice to say 'Jew.' Harry recollects the incident that finally broke his marriage in two...
...His wife has left him...
...Not the bandage on my ear...
...But a mordant undercurrent runs beneath the chatter...
...People who looked great were great and were doing great things...
...I was there, editing the book review section of Tom when wit and information were not unknown in its pages...
...Tom Magazine...
...Everything spoken of was great...
...Harry's sole companion is a West Highland white terrier named Hector, whom he addresses as Mr...
...Having learned all this, I was bothered by two facts: (a) This protean figure had not developed a plan for world peace...
...Tail demands...
...No one plans a benefit or dinner dance for a fatal disease...
...How many people watch Murder She Wrote reruns all day long...

Vol. 11 • March 2006 • No. 26


 
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