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Park Slope Profiles In Courage: Amy Sohn

Photo: CirceShe's a best-selling author(ess) of the novel for our times, Prospect Park West. She is a lifelong resident of Brooklyn. She is possibly the most reviled mama in Park Slope (and that's saying something): not just for her depiction of breeder ladies gone to seed in Park Slob, but because, truth be told, Amy Sohn IS better preserved and hotter than most of us.

And she knows it.

Adding insult to injury, she's now richer thanks to that GD book, which almost every pissed off would-be novelist in these parts contends THEY could have done a better job with. If only they'd thought of it. And written it.

Let's call a spade a spade: Amy Sohn is the ultimate Park Sloper, even if she is apparently willing to dump us forever and never look back for the right price. She is alternately unbearable and kickass. Smart and inane. Caricaturing and ripe for caricature herself. Overbearingly opinionated, and then completely on the mark with her cultural insights (see below).

Her next book, a sequel, will be out in the summer of 2012. It continues the stories of several of the PPW characters and adds some new ones. After that, she's considering a prequel..."George Lucas-style."

When and why did you move to Park Slope? Would any amount of money get you to leave and never come back?

We moved in December 2004 so we could buy an apartment in a good school zone (I was a couple months pregnant). We looked in Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens too but there were just more apartments in Park Slope.  I would leave and never come back for whatever amount I would need never to have to work again. In the meantime, Park Slope pays my bills in fodder.

Your favorite Park Slope…

Restaurant:  Gotta go with Al Di La.  So reliable and warm and toasty and romantic.  I'm hoping someone bids $65,000 for a group dinner there at the PS 321 PTA auction.

Coffee Joint:  Cafe Martin - No one is on computers and the banter reminds me of "Cheers."  Martin reminds me of Richard Thompson. (Ed note: Who?--Allison)

Grocer (other than the Park Slope Food Coop):  DNY, or the grocery formerly known as Daniel, on 7th between Carroll and President.  We still call them Daniel and pronounce it the French way.  

Free Hangout:  BPL steps in the summer with my daughter, feet in the fountains.

So, it took me three months but I finally found some friends who will actually admit to reading and enjoying your book and all that salacious extra-curricular action all the characters are getting. Which made me wonder: is anybody in Park Slope actually getting any, or was this just a bit aspirational? My husband had to measure a closet last year for a design project and found a whole S&M collection, which explained the bruises round the tenant's ankles. But really, we’re so very schlubby around here and alternately busy, I just find it hard to fathom.

Well, among the rumors I have been privy to by virtue of being a novelist are: a group of PS 39 mothers swap husbands when they go on vacation to the Caribbean; there are many open marriages in the Slope; every woman with two kids around here has an intra-uterine device; co-sleepers have more sex than anybody; gay dads kick it more than straight dads.  

There was a great photo on a blog of a little boy in the Babeland window, with a caption about what kind of mom would take her son dildo shopping - and it turned out the little boy was the son of the store owner Claire Cavanaugh. It wasn't "take your son vibe shopping," day it was just "take your son to work" day.

Have you ever been chased down/cursed out/spit upon/hung by a sling by any local mamas for your depiction of us in PPW?

On the playground and at children's birthday parties I get the occasional "I read your novel" — followed by an expression that is part accusatory, part flummoxed, part awestruck.  It's as though they expect me to answer, "I'm so sorry." I did one book group for PS mothers in their thirties and everyone was extremely kind.  I did one for PS mothers in their sixties (many of them grandmothers) and it turned into a referendum on What Is Wrong With You Parents Today.  Most intriguing, the grandmothers felt that their OWN children raising kids are nothing like people raising kids in Park Slope.

Do you have any feelings of antipathy for JSF and Nicole Krauss? Alternately, would you join their vegan/humanitarian/heeb band, soon to be debuting at Southpaw?

He has always been very kind to me.  I don't know Nicole.  Do I wish I had their house?  Sure.  They need to throw some insane, Bob Guccione-style parties in there, with hookers and blow. I would be first at the door.

I hear from Jake Dobkin that you’ve got a great set of knockers. And I’m hoping you can help me out here. Why is it that every bra I see has so much freaking padding and where can you get a decent bra around here? The ones at Target are all a size 40 Triple G. 

You can get decent bras at the lingerie shop next to Lolli.  Ask the woman to fit you and observe the look on her face when you do.  It's all about Wacoal, baby. In the city, go to Orchard Corset or Macy's. The Hasids can guess your size while you're in your clothes.  Those bras are textured and don't work for T-shirts though.   

Since you live on the same block, do you hang with John Turturro? And why does he spend so much time on his cell phone? I always see him looking like he’s muttering to himself & possibly off the meds. I love his wife; she’s very droll on the Food Coop line.

When muttering he is probably just memorizing lines like any other New York theater actor. Cut him some slack, bee-yatch.  He's been very generous to our school.  

Speaking of the Food Coop, what’s your shift and what do you have to say to the haters? Can we get you to switch over to the Gazette, by the way? 

I do checkout during Week A. Lately I've been doing receiving for my makeups, though, and it is as though I have found a new lover.  There is nothing like organizing chocolate bars in Express.  I am obsessed with Chase, the receiving coordinator.  He says he is ex-military. I love that he wears a gas-station attendant outfit even though it is not a job requirement.  I think someone needs to make a documentary about him.

Photograph: Piotr RedlinskiHow’d the Brownstone Brooklyn Gentrification night go? (I had it in my head that it was another night). Did you arrive at any conclusions? Actually, I was wondering if you might want to do a De-Gentrification Campaign with FIPS. I’ve got such plans; let’s talk…

You "had it in your head" that it was the next night?  Girl, would you "miss" registration day at PS 321? (uh, yes) Would you "miss" the auction? (def) Would you "miss" a prenatal appointment a week before your due date? (i'm afraid so). This is what's wrong with you Park Slope moms. If you're not crazy, you're spacey.  I thought you and I could be friends, yo, but now I'm not sure.

The panel was edifying and scintillating. The people who made 321 what it is today are agog that we have kids being dropped off in limos now.  You should have come to the one at Community the week on April 6. There was some real Gen X v. Boomers frisson, instigated by me. My goal is to have a Throwdown debate between FIPS and PSP.  Ballers v. Breeders.  Topic: Who owns Brooklyn? Southpaw, weekend afternoon, with beer. 

I'm in. But really, where DO you come down on recent brownstone Brooklyn gentrification and is it any different than previous newbie invasions?

Park Slope's history is a history of displacement.  The ones who fetishize the 60's have historical blindness. They displaced people too, even if they don't want to admit it. In terms of today, as anyone on the Fifth Ave. Committee will tell you, Bloomberg has been horrendous on affordable housing.  So working people have been getting displaced.  

Most new inhabitants of the Slope, of the yuppie variety, don't see the throughlines, just as their predecessors refuse to see the throughlines.  The new yuppies think gentrification "just happens," like molting.  When zoning laws are changed and unprecedented numbers of real-estate developers knock down affordable housing to make room for high-end condos, that's not something "just happening."  I wonder whether the young couples buying on Fourth Avenue in buildings like the Novo think about who lived on Fourth Ave. before they did. I doubt they give a shit.

That is not to say that all the yuppies are assholes.  I know a young wealthy couple on Sixth Street (7th/6th) who made a big effort to befriend the older people on the block. The wife comes from a culture of southern hospitality. Whether neighborly acts change anyone's opinion, I'm not sure. Maybe the oldies still hate them because they know how much they paid for their brownstone and it disgusts them.

I happen to live on a collegial block with a fair amount of income disparity and a lot of age disparity (if virtually no racial disparity). It feels neighborly to me but I would like to do like that guy did in a social-science experiment and sleep in every house getting to know who lives there.  Unfortunately my profession would render that impossible.

And how does Park Slope today differ from growing up in Brooklyn Heights?

In the '80s, PS was a bit more funky/weird, though it would be pushing it to say "edgy."  It felt less WASPy, more Jewish, more intellectual, more middle-class and more left-wing than BH in the 80s. The Slope kids I knew went to 321 or got kicked out of Packer and sent to Berkeley Carroll. Then for high school, they all went to Stuy or Hunter or Dewey or Midwood or Tech. There was a teen culture on 7th Ave. that contributed to the funk factor.  

In the Heights teens were in front of Saint Ann's and on certain blocks like the end of Remsen Street, because you could skateboard there. Still, the North Heights where I am from always had a seedy history. There were SROs and cruising and By George restaurant, an institution that cannot be explained.  It had to be witnessed.

Today the neighborhoods would be interchangeable.  Now P.S. 8 is a destination school, just as 321 is. Perhaps BH votes more to the right but I'm just guessing.  We have better restaurants, because of 5th Ave.

Finally, where do you come down on…

Kindergeddon and the waitlist?

I would sign-up to be a cop so fast. I would even do it for 107. I'm going to try to do it for 107. Fraud sucks. Why did I play by the rules by buying my desired apartment while others flout the rules?  It's not right. Here's a story:  When I was single and living in Cobble Hill, a friend asked if he could put his name on my gas bill so he could send his daughter to P.S. 29.  I said yes.  Then I agonized about it for a few weeks and took his name off. I felt guilty even being on the other side of it, so obviously I would never lie myself.  He wound up sending her to NEST.

Susan Fox and Park Slope Parents?

I love the discounts.  I have a killer pair of Ray-Bans from Park Slope Eye that were 15% off because of PSP. In terms of the list itself, it is a testament to our (Gen X parents)'s utter inability to think independently. 99% of the questions on the board could be answered if the poster sat on her Room & Board couch, put her chin in her hand, and FUCKING THOUGHT ABOUT IT FOR FIVE MINUTES.  Why is random bad advice from strangers better than being alone with your own thoughts?

Park Slope parents (not the listserv)?

Too big a question. Read my novel

BK as the New Paris

Where did that "BK" come from? That's cheesy. Marks you as non-native.  I'd drop it. Brooklyn is not the new Paris. Yeah, we are "lousy with novelists" as Lethem said, but the breeding thing combined with the affluence make this less exciting than the Left Bank. They still had kids but most were illegitimate.

I hear that you think there are lots of DILFs in the hood. Wait, where? How can this be? I’d sooner go to the dyke side than get into a bed with most dudes around here (save my HAWT man). Are you saying there are actually beddable daddies round here?

There are some very hot PS dads.  Most of them are gay.  But for a sampling, consider:

Top image of Amy: photo by Elizabeth LippmanLet's take a mo' to play guess which bed-worthy Park Slope dad is which...

Rebel rebbe Andy Bachman of Congregation Beth Elohim.

Matt Hranek, photographer and NRA-loving sartorialist.

Internationally famous singer-songwriter Jonathan Coulton.

Hootenanny Art House co-founder Pete Heitmann.

Guggenheim-winning novelist Ernesto Mestre.

Hunk of lovin' and Hollywood celeb Terry Kinney.

James Marsh, a former Park Sloper and director of Academy Award winning doc Man on Wire.

PSFC member Kirk Douglas of the Roots. 

MTV bigwig Ross Martin.

Megastar magazine publisher Chris Mitchell.

Award-winning author Darin Strauss.

Alexandre Mars"a born entrepreneur and an expert in new technologies" or something like that (Allison: okay, I'm willing to concede that this one is worthy)

Answer Key: left to right starting at the top: darin strauss, james marsh, pete heitmann, terry kinney, jonathan coulton, chris mitchell, kirk douglas, ernesto mestre, alexandre mars,  matt hranek, ross martin and andy bachman.

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