When we moved from Jersey City out to South Orange not quite two years ago, my friend Lenny, who’d been in nearby Millburn for a while, took me under his wing, driving me around, taking me to lunch in various spots around Essex County.
We were talking about Short Hills and he said, in passing, that of course I’d read Goodbye, Columbus. But I hadn’t. I didn’t know it and didn’t know that it was all about a version of the very move we had just made, for it’s the tale of Neil Krugman, a young worker in the Newark Public Library, and his love affair with Brenda Patimkin of Short Hills.
It’s a wonderful story about a summer romance across class barriers—funny and sharp and sweet. And there is a great, jolly pleasure in reading the real names of the towns that I pass through every day on my commute in to the city—to listen to Neil look at the Lackawanna Train—which then went into Hoboken but now is my train into Penn Station—and imagine the commuters from Maplewood and the Oranges, whizzing through Newark on their way to New York.
Philip Roth published Goodbye, Columbus in 1959 and so I’m not telling you anything you don’t know, but if you’ve never read it or haven’t read it in a while, let me tell you, this novella is a great little summertime read.