Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Who Are the People in Your Neighbourhood?

The world has become a funny place. Folks are quite likely to be in daily communication with friends not seen for 20 years (and likely never to see again), but may not know their neighbours well enough to pass more that a nod in the mornings. 

Neighbours can have a profound impact (for good or ill) on each others lives. You walk the streets, you know the cracks in the sidewalk. It's familiar and it's home. Neighbours are brought together by chance rather than by design creating an eclectic and unique community. Here is a salute to neighbours and neighbourhoods.

44 Scotland Street by Alexander McCall Smith
The action focuses around the residents and neighbours of 44 Scotland Street. An artist and his dog, a child prodigy and his parents, an art dealer looking for love, a bibliophile in the coffee house, an anthropologist, a key member of the Glasgow mafia all interact and intertwine in this series of subtly hilarious stories.

The Ballad of West 10th Street, by Marjorie Kernan
All great neighbourhood fiction contains a wide cast of characters each with their own story and their own contribution to the community. One such character, Sadie, the alcoholic wife of a deceased British rocker, and her children's lives are changed when a southern gentleman moves in next door to their Manhattan townhouse. The Colonel becomes the focal point for this set of
 mismatched neighbours creating a unique family.

Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin
Anna Madrigal's apartment house on Barbary Lane is the setting for the adventures of quirky set of somewhat stereotypical characters populating a San Francisco neighbourhood.

New Yorkers by Cathleen Schine
As dog owners know, canine companions have a way of making their humans forge connections with strangers they would otherwise pass by. In the New Yorkers, dog owners commune and co-mingle in a tiny neighbourhood near Central Park.

Tales from Firozsha Baag, by Rohinton Mistry
Firozsha Baag is a run-down apartment building in Bombay. These short stories center around a cast of of somewhat quirky characters whose lives interweave.

Lunch at the Piccadilly by Clive Edgerton
Funny, yet a little sad. The community at the Rosehaven Convalescent Home are shaken up with the arrival of irrepressible Lil Olive and her rambunctious schemes.

Legends of the Chelsea Hotel: Living With the Artists and Outlaws of New York's Rebel Mecca by Ed Hamilton
It goes to prove that the truth is stranger than fiction. The Chelsea Hotel has a long history of harbouring writers, artists and thinkers. (Think Bob Dylan, Thomas Wolfe, Sid Vicious, Arthur Miller, Arthur C. Clarke). As the hotel comes more gentrified, long time resident Hamilton, tells the story of the hotel and its more eccentric residents.

Coronation Street: Keeping the Home Fires Burning by Daran Little
And, finally, because I cannot resist, what neighbourhood can be compared to Coronation Street in Weatherfield. I once heard it referred to as the most dangerous street in England. How many people have been hit by cars? Close to 100 people have died on this street since 1960. In this novel, you are taken back to Weatherfield during World War I and will see how Albert Tatlock met Ena Sharples.

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