It's hard to be in South Florida for a few days and not have monster houses on the mind. There they are, there they still are, going up cinderblock by cinderblock where Old Florida used to be, i.e., jalousie windows, low rooflines, white tile roofs: you know what I mean. I thought I'd post a passage from Adam Haslett's new novel Union Atlantic, which centers around another kind of monster house: the Massachusetts version of such a thing.
from Union Atlantic
For months now Charlotte Graves had tried to avoid looking at the new place. And yet how could anyone's eyes not snare on the enormity of it? It had been designed to draw attention.
As she and the dogs came down the drive the following morning, it came into view once again: a hulking, white mass of a building, three stories in the middle, with wings on either side and someone's idea of an orangery or sunroom protruding from the far end. A cupola the size of a small bandstand stood atop the pile, betwixt two fat, brick size of a small bandstand stood atop the pile, betwixt two fat, brick chimneys. A columned portico framed the enormous foot door. Either side of this, along the front of the house, were yew shrubs set in beds of newly delivered wood chips. It looked, more than anything else, like a recently opened country club, and indeed the landscaping of the yard, with its empty flower beds cut from the imported turf like oval incisions on a piece of bright-green construction paper and its perfectly crosscut lawn running to the river's edge without so much as a transitional weed, reminded one of the manicure of a gold course. In line at the drugstore, Charlotte had overheard a real estate agent describing it as a Greek Revival chateau.
This was what had replaced the wood that Charlotte's grandfather had given to the town for preservation. This steroidal offense.
Over the last year, as it was being built, she had often reminded herself that the house was merely the furthest and most galling advance of the much larger intrusion, the one that had begin decades ago, first at a distance, a sighting here or there, a fancy stroller in the library stacks, a concern for caloric totals voiced over the meat counter. More recently had come the giant cars, the ones that looked as if they should have gun turrets mounted on their roofs, manned by the children glaring from the backseat. For years the news had made so much of bombings in the Middle East, and of course in dear old New York now as well, and of the birds of prey we released in retaliation but they never mentioned the eyes of the wealthy young and the violence simmering numbly there. She had seen it at school, the way her students had grown pointed, turned into swords wielded by their masters. As soon as she began speaking of such things openly the principal had gone to the retirement board and they had got rid of her. Nearly forty years of teaching history to the children of this town and they had hustled her out for speaking the truth.
Around the pool. Our last night here. Storms rolling in from the southwest.