Pineapple Street by Jenny Jackson
Over the holidays I listened to the audiobook of Pineapple Street (2023), Jenny Jackson's debut novel. Jackson happens to be a Vice-President and Executive Editor at Knopf Doubleday and has edited the likes of Emily St. John (Station Eleven), Cormac McCarthy (The Road), and Kevin Kwan (Crazy Rich Asians). In an editorial sense, she's been the co-creator of so many spectacular and successful books that it feels a bit odd to say Pineapple Street is her first novel, a splashy and much-buzzed about one at that, which may be no surprise, given her position in the publishing industry.
I chose to read Pineapple Street because it was described as a unique and easy read, a modern take on the Gilded Age novel. I needed easy as I rarely do, and I love the author Edith Wharton, who actually lived in the Gilded Age and wrote about issues of class, privilege, and poverty with depth and understanding.
I did find Jackson's novel entertaining; it kept my attention and was not a heavy read. That said, Pineapple Street resembles Wharton's work only in the fact that it is a character-driven story about old money one-percenters and their trust fund kids. Extravagant parties are thrown in well-appointed abodes, tennis games are played, bickering happens. But did the central characters encounter serious moral crises or take any real risks? Were the stakes in any way high, or did anyone truly change, for better or worse? Not so much. If there was meaningful social critique, it was lost on me.
In sum, I would describe Pineapple Street as a perfectly readable book, if you don't find it too problematic. For a little while, I got to be a rich, white Brooklynite too! The author may have missed an opportunity to dig deeper and challenge its characters to do more than surface-level soul-searching. But maybe we all need a break once in a while. If that's the case for you, then Pineapple Street might be just your cup of tea. Or caviar on a cracker.