how to live in new york

Ia life user guidebut in New York: a building, the Preemption, is at the center of Comedy by David Schickler, its inhabitants cross from chapter to chapter, from intrigue to intrigue, their stories build an inhabited geography, a romance of the stories that are the lives of the neighborhood. The book begins shortly before the turn of the millennium, in December 1999. It is a time of identity and cultural crisis, but also the beginning of the days of the “Great Debauchery” initiated by Patrick Rigg.

when opening comedy new york, we thought first of reading a collection of short stories and little by little the stories mix to the point of tying a romantic intrigue. The central characters of some chapters are just silhouettes in others, the suspense of one chapter unfolds in another. It is the crazy life of a building (and, moreover, of New York) that is presented here in a narrative, in a singular style that David Schickler undoubtedly likes to define implicitly when he evokes the comic vein of one of his characters: nothing about he really gets out of the joke, “they were tales, little moments in life that rang true”, perhaps invented “as you go along”.

Such, too, are the racy, true, and funny chronicles of Preemption, the construction of the Upper West Side. He is the great character of the story and his constantly re-released description expands from slice of life to slice of life. “It was a mysterious brown stone building whose roof was adorned with gargoyles, which overlooked the Hudson like a watchtower”: Preemption is less described than inhabited and even haunted, as it gradually transforms into a fantastic and disturbing place , as menacing as its Otis elevator, the oldest in Manhattan, with its mahogany doors, reeking of a “library” or a “pretty coffin”. The building is indeed the radiant heart of the book, each chapter going on to focus the story on a tenant, a floor, a family, the whole romance intersecting and blending them together, with, around them, two disturbing and fantastical silhouettes. , Sender, Preemption’s doorman, his strange scar in the middle of his forehead, his way of never getting old, and Morality John, underground singer, whose melodies accompany and comment on the plot, like the chorus of old tragedies.

All the characters are looking for love, as the original title of the book shows. kissing in manhattan. A thirty-something gallery and dust seeks love, the only one, the true one, the one that changes the course of life, the present, the past and the future. They all implement very different ways of finding him: from Patrick who ties up their conquests to force them to stare at themselves naked in the mirror, to James who keeps a pair of opal earrings in his pocket to offer to the elect, to Nicole who wants to get married. with her literature teacher, with Jacob and his “bath” ritual. Rally McWilliams wants to believe in the existence of his “soulmate, a future wife in the making somewhere in Nepal or the Australian outback” – or, perhaps, in Manhattan, because “sometimes things go like this. , it can happen. It can happen. it happens that the city makes a small wave of the hand, that lets two beings fall in love.” In addition to love, comedy new york is a novel about desire, how to create and maintain it, through mirrors, playful perversions, baths, suspense, questioning, whether the jokes of the characters or those of the author who mocks his reader, mistreats him, even vents. against “those people who believe they are entitled to a clear and flawless history, as if it were my duty to clarify or clarify”… comedy new york is a game of checkers, as the first chapter is amused, in allusion to the name of the protagonist (Checkers). And in this funny ball, one wonders who is leading the dance: Johann Rook, the owner of Preemption, a mysterious character that gives rise to the most romantic rumors and who is said to “intervene from time to time in the lives of his tenants” ? Patrick Rigg, who asks the guests of his “Great Debauchery” to tell the microphone their story, of mysterious beauty and violence, who will be the only character to tell his story in “I”, a way of endorsing the role of the narrator? Patrick, decidedly the first name of New York’s great perverts, “knew things about Manhattan that only the dead should know”…

We are constantly caught between darkness, cynicism and comedy, as if it were, at each chapter, to explore and anticipate a genre of comedy: of manners, of characters, detective, sentimental, romantic and musical. The novel also leans towards New York series, Sex and the City for Seinfeld. Schickler even revels in his debt to Bret Easton Ellis and his character as a wealthy merchant, with a sexuality as perverse as he is political, Patrick Rigg seems straight out of the box.american psychopath. David Schickler has a lot of fun, he excels in this ironic mise en abyme game. Preemption thus appears as a house of cards and a game of checkers, as Patrick’s brain—”a fragile house of cards whose cards were the women of his life, balanced, each in her place”—the novel revealing to the few who lead the game, while shuffling these same cards. comedy new york is the story of coincidencesthe name of the heady perfume worn by many of history’s heroines, is a brilliant exercise in style and, above all, a great read.

David Schicker, Comedy newyorkiantranslated from English (US) by Jacqueline Huet and Jean-Pierre Carasso, editions Olivier, “Petite Bibliothèque, May 2022, 320 p., €11.90

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