Fort Greene in Literature: The Emperor’s Children

October 1, 2007

messud.jpgClaire Messud’s celebrated novel, The Emperor’s Children, emerged as one of the most honored books of 2006.  It follows a group of Manhattanites, spanning two generations, as they strive for direction and meaning in their lives during the summer leading up to 9/11.  Yes, most of the novel takes place in Manhattan, but Bootie, the youngest of the central characters, moves to Fort Greene in the later stages of the book:

“Bootie spent the last day of August, which was a Friday, vigorously erasing himself from the Pitt Street apartment…He was moving into a shared apartment in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, found after all in the Village Voice, where Julius had suggested Bootie look.”


“The new room smelled funny: a lingering must, emanating perhaps from the closet.  Spacious, plain, it was on the top floor of a Brownstone on South Oxford Street, with a view to the back of rooftops and, if you stood with your nose to the window and looked down, of scrubby gardens and fences.”

Booty subsequently goes missing on 9/11, and his cousin and her friend go to Fort Greene to look for him:

“‘These are great houses,’ Julius said, peering through the etched glass of the door.  ‘If I had a million, I’d buy this dump and do it up.  Sooner or later, it’s going to be worth a lot.’

‘I’m sure it already is,’ Marina said.  ‘Didn’t you see, one block down, it looks like they’ve all been done.’

I’ve said before that overall, I found this novel to be overrated (Messud seems to be projecting the New York of twenty years ago onto the 21st century).  But there’s no denying that it captures a certain period in New York City, and in Fort Greene.


  1. I ate here a few weeks ago and it wasn’t that great. The food was bland, and overpriced. The waiter was very cheezy, and didn’t have good info on the food. The back area was very nice though. But, for my money, if I wanted tapas, I’d go to Olea.

  2. oops, this comment ended up in the wrong area, sorry!

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