cover image Kill the Poor

Kill the Poor

Joel Rose. Atlantic Monthly Press, $8.95 (295pp) ISBN 978-0-87113-260-4

Joe Peltz and his wife, Annabelle, sink their money into six apartments in a rundown building on Manhattan's Lower East Side, on the same block where Joe's immigrant family lived upon arriving in New York, a ghetto they abandoned for the haven of Brooklyn. So begins this energetic but unfocused tale of struggle in an often hostile new home. This first novel is replete with Joe's bold street language, unflinching descriptions of crime- and drug-filled Lower Manhattan and colorful portraits of Joe and Annabelle's robin/if this is still too long you can delete the description of the neighbors from ``Spike...cats'' and add here ``motley crew of'' but i'd prefer to keep it/pk neighbors: Spike, the green-haired up-and-coming artist, and his overbearing girlfriend, Mazie; Scarlet B, resident gossip who's had affairs with most of the building's men; and Mewie, loudmouthed, gay and proud owner of 15 cats. The action turns ugly when a fire erupts in the apartment of Carlos DeJesus, the co-op building's only Puerto Rican and sole remaining renter. Arson is suspected, and Joe, president of the co-op board, is arrested. He is, we realize, telling his story from jail. Several of this book's 33 chapters were previously published in magazines, including Between C & D (of which Rose is publisher), and, indeed, the chapters would be more successful as short stories than they are as elements of a novel. The outcome here is vaguely tragic but ultimately the work is opaque, tedious, repetitive and flimsy. (October)