Lapham Rising

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Overview

Harry March's troubles begin when Lapham, a self-aggrandizing, ostentatious multimillionaire, commences construction of a 36,000-square-foot house (complete with a cutting-edge air-conditioner that cools his entire eight-acre property) directly across the creek from Harry's island home in Quogue, in the Hamptons. Harry, an island himself, is something of a wreck and half-nuts, but principled. His wife has left him for an event planner in Beverly Hills; he cuts the polo player out of his shirts; and he speaks ...

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New York, NY 2006 Hard cover First edition. New in new dust jacket. SHIP DAILY from NJ; GIFT-ABLE as NEW FIRST edition, fresh, NEW w/DJ NEW AS SHOWN THIS COVER Glued binding. ... Cloth over boards. With dust jacket. 243 p. Audience: General/trade.10971 10971--Harry March is something of a wreck and more than half nuts. Up until now, he has lived peacefully on an island in the Hamptons with his talking dog, Hector, a born-again Evangelical and unapologetic capitalist. But March's life starts to completely unravel when Lapham--an ostentatious multimillionaire who made his fortune on asparagus tongs--begins construction of a gargantuan mansion just across the way. To Harry, Lapham's monstrosity-to-be represents the fetid and corrupt excess that has ruined modern civilization. Which means, quite simply, that this is war. Read more Show Less

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Lapham Rising: A Novel

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Overview

Harry March's troubles begin when Lapham, a self-aggrandizing, ostentatious multimillionaire, commences construction of a 36,000-square-foot house (complete with a cutting-edge air-conditioner that cools his entire eight-acre property) directly across the creek from Harry's island home in Quogue, in the Hamptons. Harry, an island himself, is something of a wreck and half-nuts, but principled. His wife has left him for an event planner in Beverly Hills; he cuts the polo player out of his shirts; and he speaks mainly with his dog, Hector, a born-again Evangelical and a capitalist who admires Lapham's monstrosity as a symbol of American progress. But to Harry, Lapham represents everything that is ruining modern civilization. So he sends daily notes to his nemesis by way of a remote-control toy motorboat, which read: "Mr. Lapham, tear down that house!" When his efforts fail, he turns to politics by other means.]

Lapham Rising follows Harry's progress during a single day — through the strange habits of Hamptons social life; the power of local real estate (embodied in Kathy Polite, who advertises her agency by swimming naked from her boat every morning); the odd workings of his own mind, such as it is; and into his elaborate plot to devise a weapon of individual destruction with which to bring down Lapham and all the Laphams of the world. Of course, it backfires.

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Editorial Reviews

Patrick Anderson
If you enjoy wit, suspense, surprises and the odd ways of our British cousins, she is a writer to know.
— The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
The yahoos take the Hamptons in the barbed first novel from the Time and PBS Newshour cultural critic Rosenblatt (The Rules of Aging), a wicked sendup of class relations on Long Island's East End. Harry March-a disgruntled novelist, misanthrope and recluse on a Quogue sandbar he calls Noman ("Noman is an island")-has only his little cottage and his West Highland terrier Hector to call his own: his wife has left; his three children are grown. Three generations of Harry's family are rooted in town as noble-thinking doctors and teachers, so perhaps he has his history, too, but that history, and Harry's whole quietly seething existence, are under attack by the noisy erection of the arriviste's bells-and-whistles mansion across the water. Lapham (as in Silas, not Lewis) has new money that originates in asparagus tongs. His Quogue invasion, undertaken along with sexy Southern real estate agent Kathy Polite (rhymes with "elite"), sparks Harry's very active critical mind to action, and he quickly plans fiery vengeance. Rosenblatt thumps his familiar socialist themes and is quotably tongue-in-cheek: there's a restaurant in town called Writer's Crock; in his catalogue of Lapham's objets is a chandelier left over from Kristallnacht. This satisfyingly old-school stab at the Hamptons' debasement will have New Yorker readers laughing out loud, even as it sends them up, too. (Feb. 10) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Taking its cue from William Dean Howells's The Rise of Silas Lapham, essayist Rosenblatt's first novel is an acid satire that, like its namesake, concerns the building of a house. In this case, it's a garishly overwrought beachfront mansion in the Hamptons, directly across from the more humble dwelling of curmudgeonly writer Harry March. March has withdrawn from the world to a small island with a talking evangelical dog named Hector and a full-size sculpture of his ex-wife. From there, he wages a one-man war against the self-obsessed Hamptons specifically and the excesses of modern America generally. His solitude being destroyed once and for all by Lapham and his ever-growing house, March plots a fiery, if somewhat anachronistic, revenge. While this book ably skewers the pretensions of a rarefied corner of America, it is Rosenblatt's deeper critique of contemporary American life that really gives the novel its bite. Readers familiar with The Rise of Silas Lapham will also find much to appreciate. Recommended for all public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/05.]-Lawrence Rungren, Merrimack Valley Lib. Consortium, Andover, MA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An island-dwelling recluse launches countermeasures against his boorish, McMansion-building neighbor. William Dean Howells's 1885 novel, The Rise of Silas Lapham, chronicled the paint tycoon's fruitless quest to gain a foothold in Gilded Age Boston society and his eventual retreat to Vermont. Commentator and essayist Rosenblatt (The Man in the Water, 2004, etc.) loosely adapts this work, told this time from the perspective of a third-generation resident of eastern Long Island. Writer Harry March lives with his talking, born-again dog Hector on a private island he named Noman, off Quogue. "I named my island Noman so that when anyone asks where I live I shall tell them, and they shall say, ‘Where is that?' and I shall answer, ‘Noman is an island.' To date-and it has been years-no one has asked." March maintains a mental portfolio of rare diseases from which he suffers whenever he is threatened with a social experience, but he has uncharacteristically agreed to give a lecture on the meaning of the 20th century to the Chautauqua Institution. In between making notes for his speech, March spends his days growing more incensed with each ridiculous item that enters Lapham's estate: three scatter rugs made from the hair of a dingo; maids' uniforms created in Nagasaki by seamstresses maimed but not incapacitated by the 1945 bombing; 24 hand-painted mantelpieces bearing stories of the Apostles; a set of shaving brushes made from the whiskers of a dikdik. In order to save civilization as we know it, March decides to launch a fireball from his homebuilt catapult onto the monstrosity. The projectile is defeated, however, by a frigid gust from Lapham's state-of-the-art air conditioner, which blasts thefiery mass back onto March's island, destroying his home and property. Has the Age of Lapham won? Should March concede defeat? As our hero says, "There is always Vermont."Great stuff.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060833619
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 2/7/2006
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 5.12 (w) x 7.00 (h) x 0.96 (d)

Meet the Author

Roger Rosenblatt

Roger Rosenblatt’s essays for Time and The NewsHour on PBS have won two George Polk Awards, a Peabody, and an Emmy. He is the author of fifteen books, including the national bestsellers Unless It Moves the Human Heart, Making Toast, Rules for Aging, Lapham Rising, and Children of War, which won the Robert F. Kennedy Book Award and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. He is Distinguished Professor of English and Writing at Stony Brook University. He lives with his family in Bethesda, Maryland, and Quogue, New York.

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Read an Excerpt

Lapham Rising

A Novel
By Roger Rosenblatt

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2006 Roger Rosenblatt
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060833610

Chapter One

Bang bang bang bang bang. I start to flip out of bed, forgetting that Hector is beside me. I roll over on top of him. He bites my ear. I attempt to bite his. Another perfect summer day begins in the Hamptons.

"Goddammit it, Hector!" I slap on a bandage, grab my clothes, and head outside.

"Taketh not the Lord's name in vain," he says, then flattens himself, tail and all, and returns to sleep. Nothing on earth is snootier than a West Highland white terrier, especially a pious one. The Westie in question happens to be a born-again evangelical.

I shamble off my porch toward the beach. Oh, what can that banging be? I do not need to ask as the overtime Mexicans detonate their salsa radios and continue the erection of the House of Lapham across the creek. Outer walls, inner walls, pool-house walls, gazebo walls, atrium, aquarium, arboretum, auditorium walls. Up up up. Bang bang bang. Ole.

"And what does Mr. Lapham require today?" I call over the water to Dave the contractor and his band of merry noisemakers. When I wish to communicate with them, I employ a cardboard megaphone purchased for that purpose at a junk shop in Eastport. Originally it was used for Harvard crew races in thelate 1920s; a white H on a crimson horn. When the men wish to communicate with me, they use a bullhorn. These exchanges constitute most of my social life.

"Senor Moment!" cries one of the carpenters, always happy to see me for purposes of derision. They call me Senor Moment -- "senior moment" -- which I kind of like.

"One more floor," Dave says. He shrugs apologetically. "I don't get it either. But that's what he wants: four floors."

"Because no one else has more than three," I suggest.

Dave is too tactful to agree. "Sorry for the disruption, Harry. But we're coming to the end."

"You have no idea." That I mutter.

My name is Harry March. I am the last and least of three generations of Marches who have lived year-round on this private and once-tranquil island in once-tranquil Quogue. The first two generations, teachers and doctors, were spared rude awakenings. They reared strong and handsome families in this house, which too was strong and handsome once, as was its current resident. (You'll have to take my word for that.) Now the old place molts shingles and its shutters tilt into commas and apostrophes. The effort that some people expend to achieve the distressed look in their homes is unnecessary here. Bang bang bang bang bang.

"I bet you'll make a novel out of all this," says Dave. He wants me to start writing again.

"What should I call it, Lapham Rising?"

"You can do better than that." He smiles.

"Not these days."

It is 5:45 A.M. on my island. If there were justice in the universe at this hour, if there were justice on the East End of Long Island at this hour, I would be alone with the egrets and the cormorants drilling the water in their birdy silence. I would be alone with the tides and the swales of the dunes, also silent, and with the pines speckled by splashes of early sunlight, and with the line traced on the sea by a distant ketch -- all silent. I would be alone with the oversexed ducks flying above me in their crazy syntax, and with the streaks of the reluctantly awakening red sky (sailors take warning), silent as well.

But the House of Lapham requires four floors. The House of Lapham requires a movie theater. The House of Lapham requires a state-of-the-art kitchen and a state-of-the-art toilet and a sundeck and a moon deck and a hot tub. Gaah. The House of Lapham requires a master bedroom with a view to die for.

Of course, the view they will die for -- Mr. and Mrs. Lapham propped up in their cherrywood sleigh bed, their heads resting against an Alp of fluffed goose-down pillows wrapped in white cases, further supported by yet more pillows encased in white shams, their safely tanned legs stretched out beneath white sheets and a white duvet in their bedroom for the master -- is me. Out their Andersen triple-pane picture window they will peer, only to see Harry March on his barren island in his shapeless house, sans air conditioners, sans Belgian tiles, sans everything but life, cracked as it is. The Laphams will die for the view of the one watching them hoping that they will die for the view of the one who likewise has them as a view to die for.

Bang bang bang bang bang. Do not concern yourself. I am not barking yet. Not yet. Hector does the barking around here. Religiously.

"Hombres!" I cry to the carpenters. "Good news! I've called the INS. Soon you'll be able to ditch your girlfriends and go home to your wives and their mothers!"

They laugh, as they do every morning. "The INS eesn't up yet, Senor March." They laugh some more. When Latins speak English with that comic lilt, they sound as if they're making fun of the language. They probably are.

"These early starts weren't my idea," Dave says. "He's pushing us, and he's paying for it."

"Lapham," I say, my voice as festive as an autopsy.

"Lapham," he confirms with a sigh. "Ten months is no time at all for a job this big."

"Ten months?" I spread open my arms in mock wonderment. "Has it been only ten months?"

Dave's a good guy. I have known him for some ten years. Local, in his forties; his people once worked as housemaids and chauffeurs for families whose fortunes have long since been dissipated and whose scions, half drunk and half dressed, now shuffle around the Hamptons villages in bedroom slippers, calling to one another in loud, patrician voices absent of gender. When employed, they curate the local whaling museum; the local scrimshaw . . .

Continues...


Excerpted from Lapham Rising by Roger Rosenblatt Copyright © 2006 by Roger Rosenblatt. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 14, 2008

    A reviewer

    If you enjoy effite sarcasm and railing against the excesses of the bourgeois you will love Rosenblatt's writing. Harry March, a curmudgeon and misanthrope, agonizes throughout the book about his arrogant, rich and over-the-top neighbor and the 36,000-square foot monstrosity he is building in the Hamptons. March avoids contact with other humans at all costs and talks almost solely to his West Highland White Terrier (a lapsed Scottish Presbyterian and now evangelical!), Hector, who it turns out, can talk back. Nearly every other page has laugh-out-loud slams against everything his neighbor's wealth, success and social position represent. This is a very unusual book and a very fast (and funny) read. Plus, if you're a dog lover, and Westie lover in particular, you will ADORE Hector -- and pity him in his plight at being 'owned' by Harry!

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