Charlie Fig and the Lip by Steven Charnow
Aaron Lipstein, “the Lip” to his best friend Charlie Figatelli, (“because you got an answer for everything”), is about to graduate high school at the top of his class. Aaron is looking forward to an uneventful summer before leaving home for college and getting away from his abusive father. When the bullet-riddled, delivery van belonging to Charlie’s father is pulled from a canal flowing into Jamaica Bay, and the police fail to recover Mr. Figatelli’s body, Charlie appeals to Aaron to help him search for it.
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"With the deftness of skill inherent in the the works of Steinbeck and Kerouac, Steven Charnow soulfully paints memorable characters against the backdrop of the late nineteen-fifties in Carnasie and Jamaica Bay in Brooklyn. Charnow's descriptive powers continuously transform flat written words into realistic and detailed visuals of characters such as Leo: "Leo was a small man, five foot-three in his stocking feet. He rarely used the cash register, preferring to make change from the coins bulging in the side pocket of the fraying, gray jacket he wore all year. A fringe of white hair circled his head. Thick eyebrows and drooping eyelids gave him a look of perpetual fatigue."...and of landscape details: "The path, overgrown with chokeberry brought me to the ruined pavilion. A trellis over the bandstand had collapsed. Strings of lights sagged above the boards of the dance floor. Field mice darted in an out of the debris..."
Most important in CHARLIE FIG AND THE LIP Charnow's main characters, Charlie Figatelli and Aaron Lipstein, are two unlikely and unalike friends readers cannot help but love and care about. Kudos, Mr. Charnow, I await the next edition gliding artfully from mind and imagination to the page."
"How a nice Jewish boy about to graduate as valedictorian at the prestigious Bronx High School of Science gets to be such a good friend to Charlie Fig whose father has some questionable associations . . . well, the reader just takes it all in, sometimes breathlessly but always believably, as the novel moves on. I don't know where Brooklyn and Canarsie end and where, or if, the deserted amusement park and the Dutch-speaking settlement community deep in the woods begin. But as the tale continually unwinds, this reader bought into it, totally. Amidst the tensions, there is some real goodness shown by several of the characters. There is another element of note to the book beyond the realistic capture of tough Brooklyn neighborhoods and violent activities, and that is the author's descriptive grasp of verdant nature, which is threaded through the book but always seamlessly and never in the way of plot or characterization."
"I could not put it down. I'm a fan of this kind of story and I really loved the read. The author really knows how to put you in that time, to visualize the neighborhoods. The characters were compelling, and I found it easy to get behind them. There's a real richness to the writing, which made the capers seem authentic, as well as exciting. I found myself wishing I had known a Charlie Fig when I was growing up, that he was my friend, and he had included me in his adventures.
Charlie Fig and the Lip is a fun read, will make you long for your childhood again. It made me remember how much fun it was to get into a bit of trouble now and then. Good stuff!"
"Steven Charnow has created a fictional world that drips with realism and exquisite detail. In Charlie Fig and The Lip, his story of two unlikely friends delivers delicious conflicts that promote rich character development in a world we do not want to live in, but cannot stop turning pages to continue experiencing. With colorful and detailed descriptions of time and place, and storytelling that unfolds exuberantly and lavishly, the book is an exciting and gripping read -- and also a film waiting to be made."
About the Author
Steven Charnow grew up in New York City, including some memorable years in Brooklyn. After graduating from Queens College, he worked as a social worker for the NYC Bureau of Child Welfare, then joined the Peace Corps, serving two years in Medellin, Colombia. Returning to the United States, he settled in Los Angeles, where he partnered with a composer and wrote song lyrics in English and Spanish.
He moved on to writing screenplays and was soon under contract to a film studio producing low-budget features. His first novel, “Charlie Fig and the Lip”, was inspired by his childhood explorations along the marsh shallows of New York City’s Jamaica Bay.
When he isn’t running marathons to maintain his sanity, he is writing his next novel. He lives in Santa Monica, California with his wife, Shelley, and his dog, Luke.
"Charlie fig and the Lip is true coming of age novel, complete with unforgettable characters and beautiful imagery. Charnow's humor coupled with the real and imagined confusion and disillusion of adolescence, provide a rich story of drama and acceptance.Trying to do the right thing to save his best friend from getting arrested or losing his life, Aaron Lipstein or "the Lip" follows his best friend Charlie Figatelli on a hubcap caper gone bad and a hunt for Charlie's dead father that ends up worse.
Reminiscent of The Tender Bar: A Memoir, Aaron Lipstein, or "the Lip" has to make his way through life with doubts about his own father and his unwillingness to see what actually is real. I recommend Charlie Fig and the Lip. The book is a fast but thoroughly enjoyable read with scenes that will remain vivid in the mind of the reader."
"An absorbing, compelling, and touching coming-of-age story set in Brooklyn of the late 1950s. For this former Bronx boy, author Charnow evokes the time and place extremely well. His descriptive powers are very impressive indeed. The novel is expertly plotted too. Readers will be propelled along with the two teenaged boys at the center of this tale--part mystery, part family intrigue and drama. Other comments about the novel's cinematic potential are a testament to the author's ability to form a narrative richly imagined and brought to vivid life on the page. Bravo and thanks Mr. Charnow."
"I was very impressed by this novel. Mr. Charnow has a gift for creating interesting characters, realistic dialogue, and a fast-paced plot that keeps the pages turning. His writing gets right to the point (a big plus in my book), producing a fully-realized plot without wasteful embellishment. I am a child of the era in which this novel takes place, and remember the sense of menace Mr. Charnow captures while, fortunately, not being caught up in it personally. Cheers to this debut novel. I look forward to reading more!"