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A Disorder Peculiar to the Country

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About the Author

Ken Kalfus has lived in Paris, Dublin, Belgrade and Moscow. He is the author of THIRST and PU-239 AND OTHER RUSSIAN FANTASIES. His fiction has appeared in HARPERS and THE VILLAGE VOICE Literary Supplement.


Although "it was commonly held that September 11 had changed America forever," the lives of Joyce and Marshall Harriman, in the midst of a bitter divorce, had not. (LJ 6/1/06) (c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

It's a familiar New York story: Joyce and Marshall Harriman's divorce battle escalates from a skirmish to a full-fledged territorial conflict, as both sue for custody of their coveted Brooklyn Heights co-op, and consequently they must both continue to inhabit it-along with their two small children, "their divorce's civilian casualties." Minor acts of domestic terrorism have become an unavoidable part of their daily lives, so when September 11 happens, neither is immediately very jarred. In fact, each thinks the other dead, and celebrates. Far from putting things into perspective, the tragedy and aftermath become a queasily hilarious counterpoint to the ongoing war to divide Joyce and Marshall's assets. Their pettiness reaches continuously lower depths - spying, psychological warfare and even anthrax comes into play. Joyce seduces Marshall's best friend, and Marshall sabotages Joyce's sister's wedding. The Harrimans enact the country's problems on their pathetically personal scale, but the novel miraculously manages to avoid patness or bombast. As in Jay McInerney's recent The Good Life, Kalfus puts 9/11 up against the steel-plated narcissism of New Yorkers-with very different, and very funny, results. (July) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.

Powerful. . . . Kalfus skewers the pieties surrounding 9/11. --The New Yorker An interesting departure from Kalfus s Slavic-inflected earlier fiction. Astringent, accomplished black comedy. --Kirkus Reviews Brilliant. . . . It s an engaging and provocative enterprise, a novel that challenges accepted pieties and dislodges expectations. --The New York Times Book Review "Brilliant. . . . It's an engaging and provocative enterprise, a novel that challenges accepted pieties and dislodges expectations."--The New York Times Book Review "Powerful. . . . Kalfus skewers the pieties surrounding 9/11."--The New Yorker "An interesting departure from Kalfus's Slavic-inflected earlier fiction. Astringent, accomplished black comedy."--Kirkus Reviews

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