“Then you’re trapped in your lovely nest, and the things you used to own, now they own you.” —Chuck Palahniuk
Charles and Sarah are a typical New York creative class couple — he’s in finance, she works at a hipster small press, yet both are indie-rock East Village veterans who aren’t above snorting a little heroin on the weekends. But when they decide to take the logical next step and buy a condo in one of the glass-and-steel skyscrapers now dotting the waterfront of Williamsburg, their lives start to fall apart almost the moment after they sign their mortgage; and this is to say nothing of their creepy neighbors, their possibly haunted apartment, job crises in both their industries, and former friends still in Manhattan who are determined to pull them back into the debauchery. A touching ode to the a–holes ruining Brooklyn, this literary debut of “the Snake Person John Updike” is a funny yet wistful dramedy about young urban life during the Time of Shedding and Cold Rocks, and you do not need to be a New Yorker yourself to enjoy his smart insights about city living and growing older…although that certainly doesn’t hurt.
Falatko’s Condominium takes place within the time span of just one week, with sections separated by day. Charles & Sarah have just moved in their new condo & it serves as a symbol of their semi-fucked up lives. The one thing they have in common is that they feel like the condo owns them instead of the other way around. In Bret Easton Ellis form, it’s a novel about materialism, existentialism, consumerism, & every other ism, but simultaneously about absolutely nothing. But unlike Bret Easton Ellis, it didn’t really have those stand-out sentences of epiphany. There was no “people are afraid to merge” type of sentence that really hits it home hard. However, there were incredible moments of clarity. Several scenes that were so unique, but also seemed almost like non-fiction.
For example, Falatko perfectly describes that dreaded Monday feeling. The awful train crowd rush, the exhaustion. But he does it in a way that’s comical, “How many American Apparel cashiers could they possibly need? How many internships at Vice magazine?,” Charles wonders as he passes hipsters on the street. Made even more hilarious because Charles is a step away himself from being a hipster himself. How many times are you gonna think about one of your “obscure albums from the seventies?” It’s one of the many great moments that just clicks.
Another great one liner that was such a clear image in my head, I swear I’ve seen it before was, “a man with the Rangers logo tatted on the side of his face who strangely kept ordering daiquiris.” These moments are gold buried within a lot of seemingly random & unnecessary NYC cliches & references. At one point there’s so much location name dropping that the Lower East Side, Seward Park, Essex, East Broadway, Grand, & Delancey are all referenced in just three sentences.
The timing is tricky because each action is described so minutely that the reader can get pretty bored. But it serves as an overall theme that time & space are relative. Time & Space, two subjects Falatko was right to consistently evoke Burroughs in, gives the work a claustrophobic feel. Space, & its effect on a person, is at the forefront of this storyline. It got me thinking how some religions believe a person achieves true grace when their environment no longer dictates their reality. It eliminates the need to adapt because you just are. Sarah & Charles clearly suck at this because their condo pretty much fucks up their life. Either that, or the drugs make them so paranoid that they believe it’s fucking up their life. Don’t even get me started on the weird neighbor Raymond, their paranoia levels are through the roof with that guy. But is it him? Is it them? Is he just a symbol of societal pressure? Who knows! Does it matter? Does anything?
Nothing matters in the novel at least. I mean Hamlet could take a lesson from these guys on inaction. At one point the thought of actually doing something, anything, brings creepily wide smiles to their faces because their jobs & lives are that vapid & meaningless.
I had a few gripes with the writing style. I hate head jumping when it’s not done skillfully, plus every sentence had way too many commas that ramble off & return back to their subjects inelegantly. I did however love the Falatko’s ability to flawlessly include curse-words in not only the thoughts, but the dialogue without it sounding overdone or clunky. It felt right with the characters & the context.
I was a little confused how old the characters were for a while, & when I found out they’re in their late twenties I was a little surprised. They complain like children, but reference Rolling Stone, smack their forehead, & say things like “the hard youth of today.” They seemed like those kids who’re a year older than you, but think they’re in their fifties. Realistically, if this takes place in modern day NYC, then they weren’t even alive for the height of the late sixties/early seventies, so I don’t know why they’d be so pretentious about it. Unless they’re dicks, which they probably are.
Last minute things that irked me:
- They referenced Californication. Ugh. Awful show.
- The sentence “Never date someone in publishing.” Yup. My boyfriend can attest to this.
- It dissed NYU kids, but gave FIT cred at one point, which is so backwards to me as a student of both institutions.
- It missed a real opportunity for a “beast of bourbon” pun.
Last minute likes:
- It never actually explicitly gives detail on the drug scenes, but still manages to convey significant meaning.
- Made me crack up when it said all bands now are named after animals (download Frightened Rabbit though & tell me you don’t love them).
- Deals with expectations of life not being met & having a skewed reality as a result of it, I mean, that pretty much sums up life in a nutshell.
- It didn’t dive into the impact of social media & technology & blah blah blah like every other novel of this kind.
- The copy description does not do it justice, so it definitely surpassed my expectations.