“One day I was a grungy East Village NYU grad, and the next, a neo-geisha glam girl.”
Like each of the four main characters in Brian Platzer’s new novel "The Body Politic," we all come to New York City with dreams of being something other than what we are. That often happens; sometimes though, the result doesn’t resemble the initial goal.
The book follows the above quoted Angelica, her fiancé Tazio, his best friend David, and David’s wife Tess, and their collective relationship, which began post 9/11.
The timely story is set right after the 2016 presidential election.
(For those whose political credo is Vote Blue No Matter Who, there is an anti-Trump sentiment throughout that will have you wiping saliva off the pages.)
Tazio, a once-upon-time Cooper Union-trained, art world prodigy is now a political consultant. The I’m With Her button he thought was a ticket to fame has been tossed, and his derangement breakdown goes undetected, until one day he heads to DC for a visit and doesn’t return. Exotic Angelica is now a dentist who doesn’t seem to mind that she is no longer affianced because she was never sure Tazio wanted the kids she’d frozen her eggs to have. Angelica is envious of Tess who has two children, along with an unsatisfying career as a Broadway understudy who never gets on stage. Caregiver is also on her CV now that one-time Price Waterhouse strategist David is housebound due to a brain injury from a ladder fall.
How though, you might ask, can people divert so far from their original plans?
Well, we all know someone like, for example, Tazio, who stumbles into an opportunity. He designed a poster for John Edwards’s campaign. (Hey, even brilliant painters need to pay the rent.) The late Elizabeth Edwards was so impressed she brought him on to design other promotional materials. He began sharing his branding opinions with her and next thing you know Tazio’s running the show. As for the other three, well, as they say: things happens.
The book is divided into the four seasons. Each gives us glimpses into not only the friends’ present-day dramas over the course of the year, but their two-decade journey, as well as separate backgrounds.
The quartet has been through a lot together — including but not limited to addiction interventions (Tazio has a drinking problem); betrayals (Tazio and Tess slept together); confrontations that bring closure (Angelica from a #MeToo-type assault), and others that don’t (Tess and her dad, now out of prison for killing her mother).
"Learn to Code"
If you’ve spent the last 20 years in NYC, you will not only appreciate this book’s well-drawn characters, but the roller-coaster ride it takes you on that is emblematic of life here.
When my children were little, I met lots of other moms and lost count of all the ones who began their stories with: “Well, I came to New York to be an actress, but ...”
There are others who started in one career, were laid off, and if they ever wanted to work again had to “learn to code” aka get trained in another type of job. I have seen the dissolution of marriages I would have bet the farm would never end, as well as people find love when they had all but given up. Penthouse dwellers had to downsize, while others moved into impressive apartments in areas of town they only fantasized about when they arrived.
As for me, I thought I’d die writing advertising jingles that people hummed like pop songs. In the mid aughts, during a downturn in my freelance, I wrote an essay for this very paper that launched a journalism career as well as two published novels. Go figure.
As Platzer tells us: “Things change. Or at least circumstances do.”
That’s why if you’re going to make it here (all together now: so you can make it anywhere), you have to roll with it.
Brian Platzer will be reading and signing "The Body Politic" on:
March 4 at the Strand Bookstore, 828 Broadway, New York, NY 10003
March 30 at the Yorkville Branch of the NYPL, 222 East 79th St., New York, NY 10021
Lorraine Duffy Merkl is the author of the novels "Fat Chick" and "Back to Work She Goes."