The Biology Of Luck by Jacob M. Appel
Reviewed By Merri Rosenberg
The Biology Of Luck
By Jacob M. Appel
Face it: summer’s over. Time to tackle reading that’s more demanding than a beach read. Here’s something that exemplifies that autumn in New York sensibility. “The Biology of Luck” offers an engaging, entertaining re-entry into a more intellectual time of year.
In a nod to James Joyce’s Ulysses—Leopold Bloom’s epic walk through Dublin is echoed in Larry Bloom’s wanderings through the five boroughs of New York City—Jacob M. Appel offers his own inventive, meta-textual version of that journey.
It’s place and time specific, with New York locations and experiences that add depth and texture to the converging stories of Larry and his upcoming dinner date, Starshine Hart, a young woman about whom Larry creates his own fantasies in the novel-within-a-novel.
The city itself figures significantly in the novel, not surprising given that Larry Bloom is a tour guide. The author knows his stuff about each and every neighborhood that Larry visits, which is a pleasurable bonus for native New Yorkers who recognize the landmarks and characters who make their appearance here. Starshine lives in Williamsburg; Larry starts his day in Harlem and then proceeds to show his busload of Dutch tourists through New York, beginning with Morningside Heights. There are adventures and misadventures, too, from an unexpected protest on Riverside Drive to a young tourist who falls into lower Manhattan waters.
Just as New York itself has long lured those whose native habitats are too narrow for their vision, Larry clings to a dreamscape of ambition, glory and fulfillment.
As the author writes, “A third possibility exists, of course, the possibility that Larry’s perfectly constructed New York City day will collapse into rubble like the grandeur that was Rome, but for a moment it is a beautiful Harlem morning scented with maple blossoms and exotic fruit and he is happy, happy in the way he knows he can be if he wills away the inevitable and succors himself with the remotest of hopes.”
The author is a practicing psychiatrist at Mt. Sinai Hospital as well as a licensed New York City tour guide. Appel, who holds degrees in writing, philosophy, law and medicine, displays his academic, professional and intellectual background in this carefully crafted narrative that amply displays his command of multiple discipline and fields of knowledge.
So sit back, and enjoy the ride.#