Isn't there greed, envy and pride in every community, rich or poor, American or French, black or white?


Karl Taro Greenfeld

copyright Esmee Greenfeld

Triburbia

Karl Taro Greenfeld is a journalist and author. Triburbia is his first novel, in which he depicts the Tribeca microcosm through portraits of various and colorful characters.

Greed, envy, pride… It seems like every deadly sin is described in these portraits of rich and often obnoxious people. Is this Tribeca’s dark side or just the norm?

Isn’t there greed, envy and pride in every community, rich or poor, American or French, black or white? When you try to take apart a community, you always find plenty of dark and cynical characters, but you also find beautiful moments, and, my favorite of all, beautifully cynical moments.

You previously published a memoir, a collection of short stories and a work of non-fiction about Japanese youth culture. Was a novel the next obvious step? How did you come up with the idea of portraying a microcosm in Tribeca?

I wanted to write about one place in one particular time, and sort of take a microscope to the people. For me, Tribeca was a natural choice because I was living there and, most important, it is where we had our children. Children integrate you into a community in a far more profound way than when you are single. Suddenly, you know all these people, dentists, teachers, fellow parents, and are interacting with them so much more frequently and seeing different sides of them because you also have this view of them through their children and how their children behave.

Are some characters inspired from people you actually know? If they are, do they still talk to you?

Every character is inspired by someone we know, or, usually, composites of people we know. In this case, there are one or two who I think may now keep their distance from me. But there are also those who were hurt that they were NOT in the book.

Many critics said that you had the insight of an anthropologist. Would you consider studying a new microcosm now that you no longer live in New York?

I’m in the middle of my next novel and it feels like such a mess right now that I wouldn’t presume it to be a study of anything but my own futility.

Tribeca is not one of the most literary districts in New York. Do you still feel that there is a literary “vibe” in Manhattan or is it a thing of the past?

I worry it is a thing of the past. Tribeca has become a neighborhood of bankers and lawyers. We bought our old loft from a puppeteer and sold it to a trader for a hedge fund. I was nothing more than the yuppy author in the middle.

Editorial reviews (4 reviews)


There is no hero, not much suspense and little plot progression, but the stories are gripping because they are about people with fears and foibles like our own, even if we don’t live in a fashionable neighborhood.

"Triburbia" turns out to be less an urban version of Perrotta's "Little Children" than a savagely satirical, hipster take on "Our Town" or Sherwood Anderson's "Winesburg, Ohio," telling the story of a neighborhood via a chorus of voices, in this case the Tribeca dads and those closely related to them.

Greenfeld has a gift for satire, but it’s balanced by a sense of sympathy for his faux bohemians, and by the self-­consciousness of most of his characters, who know that they’re types even as they insist on their individuality.