Claire 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.