MontClairVoyant: Crossing the (Story) Line with Montclair Plots in Famous Novels

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Many Montclairites are finding some solace by reading more books while mostly staying home during the daunting coronavirus pandemic that’s brought illness and death to our town and countless other places. With that in mind, can you recommend a few novels and briefly describe them?

Sincerely,
Some Like It: Plot

I can, but a mostly local columnist like me will have to give my favorite books Montclair-centric plots. If literary scholars balk, they can go fly a…”Kite Runner.”

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Khaled Hosseini’s novel minus the “The”! So, what book do you like the most and what local plot are you foisting on it?

Sincerely,
Nitwit Lit

Charlotte Bronte’s “Jane Eyre,” which tells the story of an orphaned Montclair girl who becomes a governess in a large Estate Section house, falls in love, and finds a dictionary containing the definition of the word “governess.”

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Another fave novel you’ll disturbingly localize?

Sincerely,
The Plot Thickens

John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath,” in which the Joads lose their family farm inside an Applegate ice-cream carton, migrate west on Mount Hebron Road in an old truck, and reach…the realization that Montclair High grad Joe Walsh traded guitar licks on “Hotel California.”

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Your third-favorite fictional tour de force?

Sincerely,
Condoleezza Thrice

Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s “Crime and Punishment,” which stars a Montclair development company that builds problematic projects and is severely punished by town officials by being allowed to build other problematic projects.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
What about the amazing George Eliot?

Sincerely,
Born Mary Ann Evans

I might’ve picked “Middlemarch” last week, but since it’s now late March I’ll go with Eliot’s final novel “Daniel Deronda” — whose title character dramatically rescues flailing rubber duckies in all three of our township’s municipal pools.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Another great work of fiction is Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.” What’s that about?

Sincerely,
Toys in the Atticus

Scout Finch, unaware that Montclair’s upcoming May election is all mail-in ballots because of the coronavirus, goes to the nearest school gym to vote and is told in no uncertain terms that she…lives in Alabama.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Plus she’s too young to vote. Which future favorite novel reiterates that the public could only remotely “attend” the March 23 Board of School Estimate and March 24 Township Council meetings?

Sincerely,
Virtual Reality

Lee Child’s next Jack Reacher thriller, in which the loner protagonist moves to Montclair after he can no longer safely roam from state to state. Instead, the housebound Jack watches local meetings by roaming from computer to computer.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
“Good to go”…crazy. Alexandre Dumas’ riveting “The Count of Monte Cristo”?

Sincerely,
One Musketeer

About a man who’s falsely imprisoned in the Chateau d’Obelisk on Edgemont Pond before making a watery escape toward the Garden State Parkway and realizing he no longer has an E-ZPass sticker affixed to his forehead.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Another favorite novel?

Sincerely,
Captain Book

Colette’s “Claudine at School,” whose protagonist no longer attends Montclair High in person because of the coronavirus but claims she does. So Claudine is reassigned to be a character in Liane Moriarty’s “Big Little Lies.”

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Your favorite young-adult novel?

Sincerely,
Y.A. Tittle

L.M. Montgomery’s “Anne of Green Gables,” in which young Anne buys raspberry cordial at Watchung Plaza’s liquor store and then takes a selfie with a 66 bus that disappears from the photo because DeCamp suspended all service during the pandemic.

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
Well, “So Much for That”…

Sincerely,
Phrasers On Stun

Yup, today’s column is over. As in click on something else. As in see ya next week. The day after April Fools’ Day…

DEAR MONTCLAIRVOYANT,
No, I meant Lionel Shriver’s great “So Much for That.” You know, the novel that slams America’s problematic health-care system before offering an eye-opening conclusion that’s both sad and inspirational?

Sincerely,
Off My Meds

Sounds like a book for the devastating coronavirus era. I heard Ms. Shriver’s final pages are set in an exotic locale, which can only mean Stonehenge Road near Tuers Park.

 

Dave Astor, author, is the MontClairVoyant. His opinions about politics and local events are strictly his own and do not represent or reflect the views of Baristanet.

 

 

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8 COMMENTS

  1. I’d recommend Thomas Mann’s “Death in Venice”, the real story behind the Montclair tax pandemic shutdown. In it, Gustov travels to Paradise on the Pond, aka Edgemont Park, to get a some fresh air and sunshine in the hope of ridding himself of writers block. From afar, he falls maddeningly in love with the its homes, shops, restaurants and hotels, but is unable to patronize because of Gov. Murphy’s well-intended closures. He fantasizes from afar about center hall colonials, lobster rolls and film festivals. Seasons change from spring to summer and his frustrations grow. When finally the “all’s clear” is sounded, venues begin to re-open. Comfortingly, realtors once again can be seen driving their German cars and the ubiquitous lacrosse stick re-emerges. He makes his way to Church Street for a long-awaited independent movie and gelato, only to find more disappointment for failure to conspicuously consume grow, as he cannot find a parking space. In the last chapter we find our hero, dejected, heading up Bloomfield Avenue toward Verona.

  2. Thank you, silverleaf! I haven’t read “Death in Venice,” so I’m sure I missed all kinds of references, but I still loved the Montclair plot you attached to the novel. So many great lines in your comment praising and poking fun at our town! Perhaps the protagonist will perk up when passing Dante Tuxedos in Verona… ๐Ÿ™‚

    I’ll look for Thomas Mann’s book after Montclair’s library reopens, whenever that might be.

    (The novels I remember reading with a full or partial Venice setting are Henry James’ “The Aspern Papers,” Martin Cruz Smith’s “The Girl from Venice,” and Charles Dickens’ “Little Dorrit.”)

  3. Dave- I re-imagined Mann’s novel in keeping with your piece and named it, “Fewer Death’s in Montclair, A Meditation On Social Distancing in a Very Social Town”

  4. Fewer deaths…if only. The number of cases in Montclair and New Jersey and New York and elsewhere is alarming. But your reimagined book title, silverleaf, hopefully predicts the near future. If I were to change a novel’s title for this coronavirus era, maybe “The Heart Is a Lonely Social Distancer”? (Apologies to Carson McCullers.)

  5. Dave – As for Dante’s Tuxedo’s, let’s not confuse that with Sloan Wilson’s excellent 1955 novel, “The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit.” Both the author and Gregory Peck would undoubtedly take exception.

  6. True — no comparison! ๐Ÿ™‚ Even Dante (1265-1321) of “Divine Comedy” fame would agree. He didn’t seem like a tux sort of guy.

  7. LOL, silverleaf! ๐Ÿ™‚ So true. Too bad Dante didn’t write about the nine circles of…Antarctica.

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