21 November 2011

Post 449: Sunset Park

Sunset Park by Paul Auster. ISBN: 9780805092868.

Sunset Park is about the kind of people who would take over an abandoned house in New York. We see who they are through various vignettes from the viewpoints of the four people involved in the house, as well as a few involved in the life of Miles, the house's newest member. Each person has their own reasons for occupying the house on Sunset Park (hello title): running away from their past, trying to complete a dissertation after being kicked out of a rent controlled apartment, etc.

The idea of occupying an abandoned property has always appealed to me, and given the number of empty houses in this country it seems a shame to let them go to rot and rodents. But empty houses I can understand. Sometimes a house just doesn't get sold, it stands vacant too long and becomes less and less appealing, or the economy tanks and the people who can still afford to buy can buy in much better areas. What really pisses me off is vacant and unused businesses.

I've always felt that chain stores that leave vacant properties should be held more accountable for empty store fronts. Particularly the massive ones, or those that have required additional infrastructure (roads, traffic lights, strip malls, etc.). More people than not can afford to buy and repair a crumbling home; not so many can afford to buy 108,000* sq. ft. of soul crushing fluorescent lit retail hellscape. And if a shmuck like me did buy it, what the hell would I do with it?

But what if we actually required retail chains to properly reoccupy or dispose of big box stores? Maybe we'd get some pretty neat projects going on in those empty stores. Perhaps the local governments could require them to retrofit the space for a homeless shelter; it might still smell like soul crushing despair caused by capitalism, but at least this time it would actually benefit someone. Or even just turn it into a bunch of basket ball courts or an indoor jogging track. Or raze the building and return it to green space, a community garden even. While one or two or even a row of abandoned houses may be an eyesore, at least those were never built with the intention of being left behind and emptied. For the most part those houses did not start as a drain on tax payers via tax cuts and concessions to those who built the properties.

Oh, and why are we letting corporations take away our homes to begin with? Those fuckers can't pay their bills either.

My review can be found on Goodreads.
LibsNote: Review copy provided via the FirstReads Program on Goodreads.
*This is likely a conservative estimate given the source.

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