Tuesday, October 11, 2016

After the Fall by Victoria Roberts

Every so often, quirkiness is personified almost purely in a book: this is one such, from New Yorker cartoonist Victoria Roberts.

After the Fall is a fable, I suppose, but one without a moral -- just a story that meanders through a collection ofNew York stereotypes. A quirky rich Upper East Side family -- thin glamorous mother from Buenos Aires, tubby absent-minded inventory father, our neurotic narrator the ten-year-old son, and his precocious younger sister -- suddenly "lose everything" and wake up the next morning with all of their furniture arranged in Central Park.

(So the "everything" they lost does not include any of their actual stuff.)

They then try to live -- with the aid of their two Mexican maids, who stay on without pay to care for this deeply useless family amid the trees and park benches -- in their new home, turning it into as close a simulacrum of their luxurious apartment as they can. Complications arise, the marriage is in danger, but then, as inexplicably as it began, the crisis is over and they are restored to their proper place as rich people in a big apartment.

They learn nothing. They do just about nothing. They do look very amusing in Roberts's pictures, though.

After the Fall, I'm afraid, is like Gertrude Stein's Oakland for me: there's no there there. I may have entirely missed the point of the book, I admit. But I can't quite tell where that point would have resided, if it were there for me to miss. The quotes and reviews compare it to Edward Gorey, but Roberts is vastly gentler than Gorey, and has a deeply renormative ending, which is entirely un-Goreyan.

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