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It Happened in Boston?

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4.14 of 5 stars 4.14  ·  rating details  ·  325 ratings  ·  57 reviews
First published by Random House in 1968, Russell H. Greenan’s It Happened in Boston? is the story of a brilliantly talented, unbalanced artist who strives to meet God face-to-face in order to destroy Him. It is “a magic spell of a book—phantasmagoric, lushly written, full of unforgettable characters and brilliant twists of plot,” writes Jonathan Lethem in his Introduction. ...more
Paperback, 304 pages
Published September 16th 2003 by Modern Library (first published 1968)
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Robert Fass This great review of the audiobook appeared on the site of book blogger literatehousewife.com:

"I had never heard of It Happened in Boston? before…more
This great review of the audiobook appeared on the site of book blogger literatehousewife.com:

"I had never heard of It Happened in Boston? before narrator Robert Fass contacted me about this project. After hearing Fass’ story on publishing the audiobook and doing some research on author Russell H. Greenan, I decided it would be worthwhile to give this audiobook a listen. I hadn’t gotten far into the audiobook at the time I interviewed Robert Fass about the project, but I was already enjoying it. The novel’s narrator, a man who gives many names to his neighbor’s son but remains unnamed throughout, is a magnificently talented painter living in Boston in the 1960s. He was trained by a classical painter and from the very beginning I was delighted by the passages describing art and the making of art. I don’t consider myself an art lover, but novels about art and artists are some of my favorites. For me, It Happened in Boston? paid off from the beginning.

When the novel opens, we meet the narrator as an artist who no longer creates art. We learn along the way that he has become consumed by personal heartbreak and spends his days in what he calls reveries, daydreams so vivid he almost believes he’s traveled to points across the globe and time with the automatic ability to speak the native language. There is something off about the narrator and, while one wonders what is real and what is fantasy, I was intensely interested in the unfolding story of his life and work. He was a highly ethical man who talent that could have net him fortunes if he weren’t. As he and his friends are met with misfortune, his desire to hold God accountable grows. In his heart he asked a question asked by so many. He wanted to know why good people suffered. As the complete story unfolded it was horrifying to see the lengths that the narrator would go to to show God how unjust and wrong God was.

Robert Fass worked hard to make this audiobook edition of It Happened in Boston? a reality. It came to me as no surprise that this passion for the novel would come through in his narration. This was my first time listening to one of his audiobooks and it was a pleasure. He gave voice to characters both young and old distinctly and well. I especially love his work with the character Beels, whose role in the story was wonderful in and of itself. For me, discovering this book and Fass’ narration were equal gifts.

While this audiobook was just released last month, reading this book cemented my resolve to focus on backlist titles. I have become too focused on new, shiny releases and, while many of those are excellent reads, I’ve never read anything quite like this. I love books about art, but in this book Greenan created some of the most beautiful and arresting works of art in my mind. I would love to be able to see the narrator’s classical paintings or Littleboy’s Birth of Death with my eyes, they are forever now in the gallery of my imagination. They are just as real there. I know this for sure because there are moments in this book that tore my heart out. Then there was the narrator and his determination to meet and destroy God. As that story line developed, his thoughts on God and justice turned into a twisted Don Quixote quest which overtook him. I couldn’t help but be fascinated and horrified.

If you haven’t read It Happened in Boston?, you must. This novel provides so much to think about and replay in your mind. Robert Fass’ narration provided the perfect medium for experiencing this story of art, betrayal, and the desire to punish God. Once you’ve read it, you will want others to as well. This is a book you need to talk about."

http://literatehousewife.com/2015/01/...(less)
Wood, Talc and Mr. J by Chris   RoseTagged by Joseph M. ChironSilk by Alessandro BariccoIt Happened in Boston? by Russell H. GreenanOff the Grid by Brian  Courtney
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4th out of 198 books — 156 voters
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 677)
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Elise
The first time I read "It Happened in Boston?" I was in high school, and it was assigned to my creative writing class. I was reminded of how much I loved this underrated gem of a book last week, when I stumbled across it at a book fair. Mind you, what I found there was a 1968, first edition of "It Happened in Boston?" which cost me only a dollar, and oh what a find! After reading it again so many years later, I realize that Greenan's exquisite prose and his unique imagination have not lost any o ...more
Tyler Jones
Italo Calvino, in trying to pin-down what we meant by the "classics" of literature, suggested picturing an imaginary bookcase on which the forces of time and fame determined which books earned a place. Some books come and go, while others seem to have found a permanent home there. Perhaps there are many other such metaphysical bookcases for books other than classics; more modest, perhaps, but each with its own merit. Perhaps there are as many as there are readers. The bookcase we must imagine no ...more
David
I found this book in a thrift store in Texas. I had this tendency when I lived there to go to the thrift store and open books whose titles or covers or descriptions interested me and read the first chapter. If the first chapter grabbed me, I would generally pick up the book, as even the hard covers were only a dollar. So a little warning to those who dare look into this one: it will start getting to you before you even finish the first chapter (which is one page long).

If you've ever longed for a
...more
Hakim
Russel H. Greenan's It Happened in Boston ? is nothing short of perfect. It is a truly magnificent story of artistic genius, paranoia, deceit, reveries and murder.
The author's quite impressive range of vocabulary, his frantic narrative style and all the endearing (or not so likeable) characters made this reading experience exquisite.
I haven't read a book quite like this one before. It really is genre-bending.
In a nutshell, if you're into bizarre stories with unreliable narrators and brilliant
...more
SmartAleq
I just recently rediscovered Russell Greenan--I read this book when I was a kid (book was published in 1968 and I had the paperback so I probably first read it in '69 or so) because my mom handed it to me--what was she thinking?! I mean, just because the protagonist is a serial killer, that's no reason a ten year old shouldn't read it, right? The thing was, I loved this book and have probably read it about a thousand times over the years, but probably not once in the last twenty, since I lost my ...more
Andrew
This is the single most influential book - influential, that is, on my own reading tastes - that I've ever read.

It has one of the most compelling opening lines in any novel ever written. and it just gets better with each page.

The quality of the prose alone is enough to make it worth reading.

It has a great story, mystery, suspense, amazing characters and a satisfying (if perplexing) denouement.

I defy you to find a more bizarre and compelling novel. It can't be done. It doesn't exist. I know that
...more
Amy
I really had no idea where this book was going. It starts out with a man who sits on a park bench and experiences "reveries" which seem like lo-fi time travel (or basically a vivid imagination transporting oneself to another era). Then we get all kinds of backstory about this man's life as an artist. From there things get wild. Scandals! Murder! Backstabbing! Pretty delightful..
Gordon Scott
I first read this when I was 16, not long after it was published. It remains my favourite novel of all time. A few years back I received a Christmas card from Russell, hand written, in response to a comment I made on his web site. What a treasure. I can't add anything to the reviews here, only join with the others to recommend you read this book without delay.
Stephen
I read this book 4 or 5 years ago & remember loving it enough to pick it as my Staff Selection at Green Apple. So far, my fond memories seem justified.
erase-rwd
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Olivia
It Happened in Boston trundles merrily on its way in a thoroughly undistinguished but competent fashion until, on page thirty or so, the murder is announced. Has bung in a murder before page thirty now replaced show don’t tell as the First Commandment? So common is it in modern literature that you’d think murder was now an everyday occurrence in people’s lives, as if you’d hardly bat an eyelid at dinner were your boyfriend to tell you his boss had been stabbed today with a pair of garden shears ...more
WordsBeyondBorders
பிரசுரிககபபடடபின ஒரு புததகததின பயணததை யாராலும எளிதில கணிகக முடியாது. சில நூலகள முதலிலேயே விமரசக/வரவேறபபை பெறறு, காலம செலல அதன முககியததுவம குறையலாம. சில, வெளி வநத காலததில கவனம ஈரககாமல ஒரு தலைமுறை கழிதது கூட புகழ பெறலாம, அதுவரை ஒரு சிறிய வடடததிறகுளளேயே இநத நூல அதிகம பேசபபடடுககொணடிருககும . சில நூலகள வெளிவநத காலததிறகு மிக நவீனமானதாக இருநது அபபோது ஏறகபபடாமல போகலாம, அதறகு நேர மாறாக ஒரு காலததின நாடியைப (zeitgeist) பிடிததுப பாரதது நலன சொலலும நூலகள அடுதது வரும காலகடடததிறகு அநநியமாக இருககலாம. அலலது ஆசிரிய ...more
ES
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jacob
Strangest book I've ever read.

Let me try to sum it up. An extremely talented artist is going insane after some very unfortunate events happen in his life. The book goes from the past, where he is learning his craft and becoming somewhat famous, to the present where he's given up artistry to pursue his new life goal of becoming God, killing the old God and rebuilding the world to better suit his views. Also he likes to sit in the nearby park and reverie. During this state, he lives the life of s
...more
Daniel
In spite of its literary brilliance and its narrative genius, there will be people who won't like Boston?. I don't say this as a lofty proclamation or to cast aspersions on those folks. Consider a five-star restaurant's most expensive and well-touted fresh salmon entree. It may, in fact, be a meal of the highest quality and finest ingredients, but, hey, some people just don't like fish.

This book is populated by intriguing characters (our artistically brilliant and unnamed protagonist's goal is t
...more
Brent Legault
While reading this novel I often stopped to think, "Is this a flawed masterpiece or is it just a silly novel with veins of genius?" I never could decide. It's certainly a novel of linguistic excess, sometimes to its detriment. For example, many pages are devoted to what are, in effect, montages, meant to move the plot along without having to do much in the way of scene. In a movie, montage might hold your attention or it might be a good time to get more popcorn. In a book, it always makes me ski ...more
Elijah Spector
"Lately I have come to feel that the pigeons are spying on me." This quickly became one of my favorite opening lines, and it lays out the experience before you as well as any single line could.

It would take an incredibly long time to describe all the wonderful aspects to It Happened In Boston. I haven't the time, but it's a very funny, bizarre, disturbing, and well-written book. On top of all that, it's also very enjoyable and entertaining, which is important.

Without giving too much away: it's a
...more
Quinn
I really respect this book and I liked certain things about it but I didn't LOVE it. I can see falling in love with it more if I read it for the first time in high school. It feels like it should be required reading. Unique, for sure.
Jacob
I bought this book because of the curious title, the interesting cover art, and a back cover blurb that mentioned time travel.

Whether or not time travel is a part of the plot is debatable.

The event depicted in the cover never actually occurs in the story.

But I still really liked the book despite feeling somewhat conned by the marketing department. Sprawling and enthralling, with a clever resolution to the mini-caper that sneaks up on you and a very nice twist towards the end where the story th
...more
Justin Mitchell
My second time reading this, and it remains one of my favorites. While Greenan's other books are so-so, this one, his first, is a masterpiece that hits so many of the major chords of twentieth century literature but manages to be thoroughly entertaining at the same time. It's basically the story of an artist going insane in the way only an artist can--seeking to overcome and replace God by having absolute power over the world. However, he learns by the end the limits of his ability and how at th ...more
Paul Spencer
One of the strangest books I've ever read. It is obscure, but for those who have a Alfred Hitchcock taste, this is the book for you.

I found this book in a used book store in Brisbane Australia and bought it because of the word Boston in the title. I guess I was a little homesick at the time.

When I started reading, I couldn't put it down. This good, but starving artist gets suckered by his wife and his agent who are having an affair.
They also steal all his art works and leave him with nothing.

Th
...more
Irving Karchmar
I really enjoyed this surreal masterpiece, though the editor who approved the title should be fired. A brilliant and crazed artist wants to meet God, and though he has found a way to do so, he must kills innocent souls to do so. And that is just one of the plots; the others involve art forgery, reveries in which the artist takes on personas of past lives, and a mix of metaphysical beauty and 60's mayhem. I have reread it a few times, and always find something new to enjoy. I think Greenan only o ...more
Blue
I read this book after finding it at a bookstore I worked at when I was seventeen. Completely absorbing, strange too. Nightmarish, deep. I have to re-read it. I still have the same copy amongst my books. Recommended for its hair-raising conclusions and denouement. Images from it culled by the prose remain in my subconscious to this day. At the time one of the best novels I had read apart from Dostoevsky, whom I may compare Greenan to.
Footnote: in all of my encounters with the literary and writer
...more
Leroy Brookens
Why are there no negative numbers on this rating? I want my time back.
Joy
I read this book just before the Chicago Tylenol murders. It seemed plausible.
Robert Wechsler
A very pleasant surprise. The narrators voice is the novels greatest accomplishment. It is intelligent but matter-of-fact, even as the story and the narrator become increasingly crazy. In fact it is the tension between the voice and the narrator that allows the story to work. Theres something exhilarating about the novel, despite the pitiful narrator and the fact that you can never believe what he says, although you do. Just like reality, only more so. Its a great spin on the dramatic monologue. ...more
Enzo
It has been four months since I read this, so I'm pretty lost on details, but I have found myself thinking back to this book a couple of times (and as far as I am concerned, this is a pretty big sign that it was a great book) and some very emotional scenes in it.

The künstlerroman aspect was really well done. As Chabon says in his introduction, there is a real feeling of loss when tragic things happen toward the end. I can't talk about it much without going into details, though. I think this one
...more
Ben Ostrander
One of the best books I've read in a very long time. Highly recommended.
Eilonwy
Those four stars are more for the weird sheer brilliance of this book than for "enjoying" it, exactly. What a very unusual, creepy, gripping story this is. It's full of vivid scenes and images I'll never be able to forget, even if I wanted to.

What on earth is with the paperback cover shown here? It's got even less to do with the story than the Boston skyline illustration on the hard-cover copy I've got. I'm not sure what image would do justice to this book.
Edmund Jorgensen
It's hard to understand how this book isn't better known. The prevailing "common wisdom" is that Greenan's work isn't better known as a whole because it's hard to put in a genre or describe. If so that's a sad indication of the state of our species.

I'm reluctant to say much more about it, as almost any bit of information might spoil some of the fun of this great novel.

Check it out.

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What's The Name o...: An artist kills seven people so he can meet God [s] 11 83 Feb 07, 2014 04:24AM  
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Greenan grew up in the Bronx, had a tour of duty in the US Navy, and after attending Long Island University on the G.I. Bill, went to live in Boston in the early 1950s. For several years he worked as a traveling salesman selling industrial machine parts in remote corners of New England. His savings enabled him to travel to Nice, France where he stayed for a year to write. On his return to Boston h ...more
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