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Greed. Envy. Sex. Property. In her subversively funny and genuinely moving new novel, Jane Smiley nails down several American obsessions with the expertise of a master carpenter.
Forthright, likable Joe Stratford is the kind of local businessman everybody trusts, for good reason. But it’s 1982, and even in Joe’s small town, values are in upheaval: not just property values, either. Enter Marcus Burns, a would-be master of the universe whose years with the IRS have taught him which rules are meant to be broken. Before long he and Joe are new best friends—and partners in an investment venture so complex that no one may ever understand it. Add to this Joe’s roller coaster affair with his mentor’s married daughter. The result is as suspenseful and entertaining as any of Jane Smiley’s fiction.
friends, but always between us there was Marcus, with whom we both were allied, but whom we did not seem to see in the same way. I finally decided that working with a brother and sister was almost like hanging out with some married couple. In the end, your best bet is to stop noticing their relationship altogether. We were happy as could be, it seemed. One day, I saw a check on Jane’s desk from Gordon, for twenty thousand dollars. The gravel, I thought, an interesting and amazing turn of events,
equity with a $35,000 mortgage); my car, worth about $9,000 or $10,000; my savings account (about $17,000); and the two pieces of ground, one worth maybe $40,000 and the other worth maybe $38,000. After two years selling real estate, one of them bad and one of them good, I had $20,000 equity in a condo worth $65,000 on the market; a new $20,000 car; and savings of $51,000. The pieces of property I had sold for $100,000 altogether, which I had put into the corporation along with my share of the
you find Gottfried?” “I did, unfortunately.” “Did you finalize the deal?” “I did not.” “You seem—uh, pissed off.” “I am.” “I’ve never seen you pissed off before.” “Frankly, Jane, I think this process is getting to everyone.” I straightened the folders on my desk. She stood there with her arms crossed over her chest. She said, “It’s taxing, I admit. I mean, for me, the hardest part is that there’s always something more to do. I focus on something, like fitting some investors to a
hanging over the railing of the front porch and a light on in a second-floor window, as she was in the most anonymous empty house. As we drove away, Felicity locked under my right arm, I said, “Why doesn’t it get old?” “The sex?” “Yeah.” “Because I never get tired of it.” The weather was damp and overcast—umber and ochre November. The hillsides were dark with the tangled net of bare tree branches; closer to the road, we could see their trunks rooted in a thick bed of wet leaves. Felicity
with six hundred houses, there would have to be a school. That’s always a lucrative project.” “Are you going to call this place Marcusville?” “Phoenix Park. Look at this.” We had been walking in an arc from the house. The grounds were not exactly lawn and not exactly pasture but a cultivated, gentle slope punctuated by solitary spreading trees that had been shaped over the years to frame the view of the house. At the bottom of the slope, we entered an open glade that ran along a sizable creek.