Book Review: Lapham Rising by Roger Rosenblatt

Filed in Uncategorized by on September 23, 2006 0 Comments

                It's my dirty little secret.  I am prejudiced

against rich, pretentious people.  I'm not proud of it

but I'm not quite ready to let it go.  Whenever I travel to

Nantucket or Martha's Vineyard, I can feel (and quite

rejoice in) my secret disdain for the nouveau riche

with their multimillion dollar summer "cottages." I

see them in restaurants with their perfect haircuts

($125 on Newbury Street near their winter home in

the Back Bay) and their designer clothes and hate

them, unreasonably so.  I've never even known one of

"them."  And I've certainly never been of them, which

may account for a wee bit of my contempt.

            It is for this reason that I loved the

delicious little book called Lapham Rising by Roger

Rosenblatt.  Oh, I have to admit that even I could not

understand all the literary allusions but I understood

in my heart of hearts how the protagonist Harry

March felt when Lapham, a multimillionaire of

questionable taste, decides to build a mansion in the

Hamptons within shouting distance of Harry's little

home on an island.
                 Rosenblatt is a masterful writer who

obviously knows of whom and what he writes.  I

adored his descriptions of Hampton society, the very

people I love to hate.  A fine example of this

description occurs when Harry March is talking to his

dog (yes, he's a bit eccentric but fortunately the dog 

can talk back) and he describes the towns and the

lifestyle of the Hamptons:

    "Basically, they are all the same.  The
    same shops…the same Sub-Zeros…
    the same inlaid tile, the same recessed
    lighting, the same photographs of
    families at play in the same pickled
    frames, the same people wearing the
    same outfits, the same prattle, the
    same shellacked faces…"

     Can't you just feel Harry's disdain (like mine!) , his utter

mortification at even living in the same area as some

of these pretentious people with their utter


          I love a book that makes me think hard and requires

that I have a dictionary nearby to look up the words I

don't know.  One might question how I would enjoy

not knowing but I do.  I think harder when I read a

book like this.  I had to look up rugulose,

gastaphetes, cuirasses, and vissoir .  The numerous

literary allusions required me to make notes about

books that I haven't read yet and now have to read. 

Instead of feeling dumber as you might expect, I feel

much smarter for having read a book in which I

understand a lot but not everything.

        Harry March may be feeling defeated as he sees

Lapham's house rising but he will not go down

without a fight.  Under tarpulin cover in his yard,

Harry is building a weapon with which he plans to

defeat the House of Lapham.

        The entire book describes one day in Harry's life but

his astute observations, his reminiscing about

parties he has attended, his meaningful

conversations with his dog give the reader so much

to think about and so much to gloat over.  Those

damn rich folk with their foolish beliefs in their own

importance.  Harry baby, I'm right with ya!  Down

with the rich!  Keep working on your weapon of singular

destruction to destroy Lapham's ever-rising house.

            Peopled with eccentrics like the real estate agent,

Kathy Polite (pronounced Po-leet, please and thank

you), who swims in the nude every day, the

Bittermans, party throwers extraordinaire, and

Hector, the talking dog evangelist, this book is filled

with satirical observation.

        Harry's plan to destroy Lapham's monstrosity – a

four-floor house with an "atrium, aquarium,

arboretum, auditorium…plaza, piazza, esplanade,

terrace, and gardens; the conservatory, the refectory,

the aviary, apiary, chapel, stables, pantry,

bomshelter"  (as well as the air-conditioning system that

cools both the house and the surrounding land) is

masterful — but will it go off without a hitch?

         Well, I'll leave it to you to read the book and find out.

If you enjoy satire and have a secret prejudice

against rich people, you may enjoy this book as

much as I did.  And remember to keep my dirty little

secret or I'll sentence you to a summer in the

Hamptons attending parties at the Bittermans.


About the Author ()

I'm old but can't remember it. I keep thinking I'm still 36. I love to laugh and frequently laugh at my own follies. I enjoy dressing well and wearing makeup and fragrance. Girly-girl...that's me.

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