I'm now halfway through this book, (it's not very long but I'm reading a few other novels too so I'm just slotting it in for fifteen minutes in bed before I put the light out). It's been a sort of 'pick me up' after Suzuki's Spiral which was really dreadful! LBH in comparison is a very pleasant read.
The premise is certainly original, so full marks there. The only problem I'm finding with it is that I'm used to reading long rambling novels where you really get into a characters head. I'm feeling disappointed that the characters I'm meeting here are fleeting. They're certainly individual and interesting, but I want to know more about what makes them 'tick'. It's all too condensed, though this is the author's intention, he say's "...the characters move in and out like a New York subway ride".
Everybody has a story to tell and it's actually got me thinking about my own neighbourhood. Living in a leafy suburb in Queensland, surrounded by wildlife, I barely even see my neighbours let alone getting to know them. I wonder what their stories are? I can't begin to imagine the high density living described in LBH, you wouldn't have much in the way of privacy. I don't think I could live like that, or if I did I would soon be known as a recluse or 'the crazy cat lady'! However, the message I'm getting as I'm reading is that it doesn't matter where you live, it's the sense of belonging and the pride that you take in your neighbourhood that is important.
So, summarising what I have read so far, it doesn't rank up there with great literature, but it is very real in it's message and it's got me thinking a lot about myself and the people around me, which is a really good thing.
Herz is a very approachable author, and has made the reading of his novel fun with the way that he has gone about its marketing and promotion. You feel part of a community that is reading The Last Block in Harlem. He is also the creator of the wonderful Sunday Morning Story http://herzwords.wordpress.com/. It is visual and poetic and reminds us just how special being alive is and how we should not waste time worrying about the small stuff. We need to get some of the 'powers that be' to take the time to realise this too.