Picks and Pans Review: The Rug Merchant

updated 05/25/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 05/25/1987 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Phillip Lopate

This novel provides insights into a part of life in New York City that is highly visible but is almost never explored in fact or fiction. The narrator, Cyrus Irani, comes from a family of Iranian immigrants. After studying art at Columbia, he drifts into his uncle's rug shop and, when the old man dies, Cyrus takes over. At the beginning of this story, he has just been notified that his lease is up, and the new owners of the building are going to more than triple his rent. Since his shop is in a marginal neighborhood at best, he knows that he can never increase his income enough to pay the new fee. But the need to deal with this problem seems to make him more passive than ever. With his mother, Cyrus goes back to his old neighborhood and visits a Zoroastrian temple (this strange religion is fascinatingly examined). He falls in love with a pretty young woman at a sex club. He drifts until a moment of unexpected—but not surprising-violence brings about a kind of resolution. When he tries to take a step that will change his life, he finds that he has waited too long. In calm, careful prose, Lopate, a poet who is also the author of Confessions of Summer and Bachelorhood: Tales of the Metropolis, reveals this one New Yorker in all his complexity. Since the homogenizing gentrification and upscaling of Manhattan is rampant today, Lopate's novel suggests that men such as Cyrus and their distinctive way of life are being made obsolete. With this loss, the city is a poorer place. (Viking, $16.95)

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