Landlady snoops into 'The Affairs of Others'
‘The Affairs of Others,” a debut novel by Amy Grace Loyd, former literary editor of Playboy, has such an intense and heady narrative voice that it recalls those occasions when a substance one has just ingested is a whole lot stronger than expected. One is overwhelmed by the scent of a gardenia, by disturbing sounds from the upstairs apartment, or perhaps by the features on the face of the policeman who has just knocked at the door.
“ ... (H)e pulsed past me and roamed feet from me; a wiry man, it appeared, with the city all through him. He had a long bone of a nose on a short face, a smallish cleft chin, a profusion of eyebrows. ... I tried not to see so much, not today, not the wave in his thick hair or his sun-loving skin and the wide pores there, or the day-old beard coming in what was a field of hard black pushing and pushing.”
This is 30-something Brooklyn landlady Celia Cassill, whose husband died five years ago, leaving her with a mind-altering dose of pain and enough money to buy a building where she has rented out three of the four apartments to people she believes will keep to themselves.
At first, in the immediate wake of her loss, Celia developed Cheryl Strayed syndrome (crazy promiscuity as a result of profound grief, a state Strayed defined in her award-winning essay, “Love of My Life”). Celia stops going to abandoned diners with strangers on the subway, but is obsessed with both privacy and violation, is lonely, fierce and looking too hard at other people's pores. Also, she has a medicine cabinet full of every drug in the world.
Welcome to “Blue Velvet” in Brooklyn. On the top floor of the building is an ancient ferry captain who Celia has been feeding and caring for. He goes missing, causing his daughter to come over and start a fistfight with Celia, who roams the city looking for him. Next floor: a young couple on the rocks, whose life Celia keeps up with by snooping when they're not home. Above her is a gay man named George. The book opens with a party to celebrate his departure for Europe. Though it is not allowed, he has sublet his place to a beautiful middle-aged woman named Hope. Hope is on the run from her marriage, has two grown children, a violent lover and a ravaged erotic intensity that Celia is drawn to beyond hope of resistance.
The lost ferry captain and the sexual vortex surrounding Hope are the main elements of the rather modest plot, but though not much happens, Celia winds up in somewhat better shape to enjoy the party that ends the book. Those who look for their experiences of altered consciousness through the legal drug of fiction will be well satisfied.
Marion Winik is a staff writer for Newsday.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.