Kitty Burns Florey

Solos

Solos takes place in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where I lived when I first came to New York -- and just down the road from Greenpoint, where I lived until February 2006. These are two of the most quirky and lovable neighborhoods in the city, and I tried to do justice to them in Solos. The heroine of the novel is Emily Lime, whose palindromic name and palindromic zip code (11211) are part of the novel’s atmosphere, which is full of word play, number games, crossword puzzles, and Scrabble rivalries, with characters who delight in all these things. Many of them also belong to a lively Trollope Reading Group that plays its own small part in the plot.

Emily is a 30-something photographer, down on her luck, living on canned salmon, apples, and eggs in her very minimal loft, along with Otto the dog and Izzy the cockatiel. Marcus Mead, age 21, is the son of Emily’s unsavory ex-husband, a Manhattan art dealer; Marcus is also Emily’s friend and dog-walker -- and her secret, absurd love.

The novel follows the fortunes of Emily and Marcus -- and a number of their friends, the artists and eccentrics (and their odd assortment of pets) who populate the neighborhood -- during a few crucial, life-changing weeks near the end of 2002, beginning on a bright October day when Marcus enters reluctantly into a money-making scheme devised by his father, and ending with a most unusual Thanksgiving dinner at Emily's loft, with both Emily and Marcus facing futures that are very different from anything they had ever expected.

I wrote the novel over the course of three very intense months, the summer of 2002, when I spent most of my free time hunched over the keyboard, living in the world of my characters -- a world that's very similar to the one I lived in myself when I walked out the front door.


SOLOS

"[E]ntanglements abound in this utterly charming tale of unlikely love. With a nod to its palindrome title and chapter headings, Florey's smart, funny romance can be summed up in one word: Wow."
--Carol Haggas, Booklist

"[W]itty, charming....Florey doesn’t serve up obvious plot lines, and the novel’s unexpected ending satisfies...[A] light, winning read."
Publishers Weekly

"[A]s much an ode to the Brooklyn neighborhood known for its artistically inclined residents as it is about a few of the characters that inhabit it....Just as quirky and lovable are Florey's characters: animal-loving, word-obsessed and realistically depicted Williamsburgers. And these are not the 20-something hipsters that first come to mind at the mere mention of the 11211 ZIP code. Instead, FLorey zeros in on a side of Williamsburg overshadowed by the neighborhood's hype. SOLOS captures the essence of the community -- a combination of antique and modern, young and old, Polish immigrants, artists, dentists, landlords and dog walkers."
--Ajla Grozdanic, GO Brooklyn - The Brooklyn Papers


"Kitty Burns Florey seems to write from a great wellspring of inner calm that derives from a gleeful appreciation of life's smallest details. SOLOS is utterly engrossing."
--Richard Russo, author of Empire Falls


"Florey's book is a true pleasure to read, leading readers into a world that delights in daydreams, good friends, and comforts like a happy dog and a cup of hot tea on a fall day. SOLOS feels real, maybe because it consists of characters who could never be plastic. They are nerdy, bright, strange and ebullient. After racing through this addictive and loveable book, readers will be searching for other Florey material."
--Meg Blackburn, www.FreeWilliamsburg.com



"Florey's Williamsburg is a bohemian dream world of converted warehouse loft apartments, Trollope-loving artists and eccentric dog enthusiasts. Reading SOLOS is like a visit to that wonderful neighborhood. Life seems infinitely brighter, and there's a hint of future romance. You never want to go home."
--Emily Jenkins, author of Mister Posterior and the Genius Child

And here's an excerpt:

CHAPTER ONE
October 2002
Step on No Pets


Emily Lime is walking up Bedford Avenue. She is wearing black jeans and a long-sleeved black t-shirt that just covers the blue zipper tattooed around her right wrist.

The tattoo is something she deeply regrets. It still doesn’t seem right that because of a little Mexican weed and the incredible discount offered by Diane the Tattoo Monarch, she made a decision at age nineteen that resulted in a wrist zipper she will have to live with for the rest of her life. Someday she will be a doddering old crone in a nursing home, with a zipper tattoo. Admittedly, it’s a beautiful, deep blue zipper, the dainty tracks neatly done, the pull falling slightly to one side the way a real one might. No one would say Diane is not a genius. But hardly a day goes by when Emily doesn’t wish it weren’t there. On the subway, she always studies the ads for laser tattoo removal and wonders if having it taken off would be as painful as having it put on. She has decided it probably would, and instead has taken to wearing cuff bracelets over it – she has three – a beaded one she made herself, a leather one she found at a craft show in McCarren Park, and a silver one she bought when Dr. Demand gave her the check for her last BREAD photograph.

But today the sleeve of her t-shirt does the trick, and Emily is feeling spiffy. She has just gotten over a bad cold; it’s her first day out. She still has the cough, and she’ll have to take a slug of Nyquil again tonight if she expects to sleep, but it’s the first time she’s felt normal after almost a week moping around the loft, taking long naps and drinking seltzer and looking out the window at the tugboats on the river and the puffy white clouds over the towers of Manhattan Island. The sky is brilliantly blue. Emily’s dog Otto walks jauntily at the end of his red leash, his tags ringing like bells. They both love this walk up Bedford – a walk Emily has taken almost daily for eleven years and Otto for six. They pass the sushi place, the Mexican restaurant, the video store, the Syrian deli, the Polish bakery (whose BREAD sign Emily has photographed a dozen times), the new baby shop that has a pair of studded black leather booties in the window, and Marta’s Beauty Salon whose faded pink-and-green sign has probably not been retouched since 1966. They pass Mr. Suarez, with his Chihuahua, Eddie, in his pocket and his shopping basket full of soda cans. They pass the Pink Pony Thrift Shop with the WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND sign on the door, and the used-book store and its new café where they can smell the hot apple cider all the way out on the sidewalk. It's a warmish day at the end of October, as warm as June, but fall is in the air, and the smell seems exactly right, a perfect match to the brown leaves on the sidewalk and the V of geese that streaks overhead and the signs in the drugstore window advertising Halloween candy.

Emily is on her way to McCarren Park, where Otto can be let off his leash to run freely in the dog enclosure. This is the best part of Otto’s day, and Emily is glad she can take him to the park herself. All the time she’s been sick, she’s had to have Marcus take Otto out at ten dollars a run. She figures her cold cost her over fifty dollars in dog-walking fees, plus another hefty chunk for the long-distance bills she racked up when she began to feel well enough to talk on the phone but not to go out, and eighty dollars for the tweedy sweater she shouldn’t have ordered off the web from Eddie Bauer to cheer herself up, but did. All that is nothing, of course, compared to the debt of gratitude she now owes to Anstice, her landlady and friend, who is much too good to her, and who knocked on her door every day with various practical gifts: the Nyquil, more seltzer, a New Yorker, a DVD of Watership Down, a pint of home-made applesauce from the Greenmarket, and a pot of chicken soup that Anstice made herself from her late grandmother’s late cook’s recipe. Emily also owes Anstice the rent, which only makes things worse.


As she hoped, Marcus is at the park with his Saturday morning crew: Rumpy, Chipper, Elvis, and Reba. Marcus beams when he sees her. “You have risen!”

“Yes,” she says. “Still coughing, still a little stuffy but basically I am healed.” She inhales deeply through her nose. “See?”

“Impressive. When did you get better?”

“I began to feel almost normal last night. I had the most wonderful day yesterday. I curled up with Otto, and Izzy perched on my foot and unraveled most of one of my socks, and we all watched Watership Down.”

“Sounds like heaven.”

She smiles at him because she knows he means it literally: for Marcus, heaven is animals. Marcus looks not unlike a cute animal himself. He has just had his hair cut very short, and it’s like soft suede against his narrow head. His ears, like his chin and his nose, are small and unassuming. Emily’s friend Gene Rae once said, “There’s something very woodland creature about Marcus,” and she was right: Marcus has the face of a squirrel, or a chipmunk, even including the luminous, watchful eyes, which are, however, the green of cats’ eyes and show a rim of white below the iris, giving him a misleadingly lazy, lustful look. Today he’s wearing a t-shirt that was once olive but has faded so that his eyes and shirt almost match. Emily, who never tires of looking at people, regards him with delight.
“The world is a new and beautiful place.” She means since her cold cleared up, but she also means that it just is, reliably, on a daily basis.


For more information about SOLOS, please go to the MY BOOKS page.