Talking Location With author Kathryn Hughes – Central Spain
A big and ambitious novel set in New York
14th September 2018
The Hazards Of Good Fortune by Seth Greenland – a big and ambitious novel set in New York.
The Hazards Of Good Fortune is a story of riches and intrigue. Jay Gladstone, his sister Bebe, and his brother Franklin are heirs to the Gladstone dynasty. They run one of the biggest real estate companies in New York, and have recently expanded overseas into a casino in Macau, and property in South Africa. They are on the up and up.
Jay owns an NBA franchise in New Jersey, has a trophy second wife (although, actually, she is an educated and experienced ex-Washington insider), and is awaiting planning permission to build the tallest and architecturally most splendid building in Brooklyn. He has a grand apartment in Manhattan, and an impressive home in Westchester County. What could possibly go wrong?
The answer is really quite a lot. Jay is accused of racism (and worse). He spends a night in custody and there are plans to bring him in front of a grand jury. Racism is something he vehemently denies. The Gladstones are Jews, and he knows what it is like to be in a racial minority. The company contributes massively to bursaries for black students, and most of his NBA team and coaches (who Jay totally respects) are also black. He sees himself as being absolutely colour blind.
There are a number of of complementary sub plots incorporated into the book. They all give different insights into modern America, and help build a complex picture of the country as it is today (or, rather, as it was in 2012 – when Obama was in power for his first term). There is D’Angelo Maxwell (Dag), the ageing star player of the NBA franchise team that Jay owns, who is looking for one more mega contract / payday and the lucrative endorsements that will come his way. There is Jay’s daughter, Aviva, who is in college and associating with radical and anti-Israeli elements – much to her father’s concern. They plan anarchist attacks on the establishment. There is a district attorney, Christine Lupo, who is seeking to use the non-grand jury indictment of a white policeman harshly accused of murdering an unarmed (and naked) black man – and the balancing grand jury indictment of Jay for racism (and worse) to kick start her campaign to become Governor of New York State. All these disparate strands somehow come together, and fall into place, in the final chapters of the book.
As I said at the beginning, The Hazards of Good Fortune is a big book in every sense. There were over 600 pages in the edition that I read. It is also big in its scope. A wide ranging look at New York and the elements that make up the city. It has the feel of a family saga covering many generations – yet the plot is condensed into just a few short weeks, The writing style plays on the emotions. At times it is downright funny, at times it is sad, and at times it is really thought provoking. What is the place of racism in today’s America? How equal is the justice system – or will wealth always win through? How can radio chat shows blatantly ignore the rules of slander, and the proposition of ‘innocent until proven guilty’?
A really good and highly recommended read.
Tony for the TripFiction team
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