When I stepped into the living room of Jonathan Tropper’s large house in the unpretentious Westchester suburb of New Rochelle, I had a nervous pause: Had I caught him at a bad moment? It looked like he had just moved in, and most of his furniture hadn’t yet arrived. The walls were bare, and there was little in the room aside from a sofa, a piano and a pile of books.
“I’ve actually been here six months,” the 42-year-old author assured me half-apologetically, as he emerged from his home office near the front door. “I just haven’t had time to decorate.”
For a cheat sheet on Jonathan Tropper’s literary oeuvre, check out this post in the Arty Semite blog.
Well, to be fair, Tropper has been busy. He’s preparing for a major promotional tour for the release of his sixth novel, “One Last Thing Before I Go,” and he’s also been commuting to a soundstage in Charlotte, N.C., where he is overseeing the shooting of “Banshee,” a TV crime-noir drama he co-created for Cinemax with writer/director David Schickler, author of “Kissing in Manhattan,” and developed with Alan Ball who wrote “American Beauty” and “Six Feet Under.”
In Tropper’s house, there are a few deeply personal touches: for example, a favorite oil painting of a young boy, which his father gave him, hangs over a fireplace. But there is not much else downstairs. The upstairs bedrooms of his three kids — a 13-year-old son who was bar mitzvahed in January, and two daughters, 10 and 5 —are the only fully-finished rooms. “I’ve put my children’s comfort as my top decorating priority,” Tropper said. “With my schedule, everything else has to wait.”
All Tropper’s comic novels, including the new one, feature a man in crisis as the protagonist, and it’s hard not to look at the author in these barren surroundings without wondering whether he’s another one of the troubled males that have led more than one critic to refer to him as the American Nick Hornby. In the new novel, Drew Silver is a Jewish middle-aged ex-rocker who is a crummy husband and an equally crummy dad. He has so royally messed up his life that he is almost relieved to be diagnosed with a terminal illness. Might there be a whiff of autobiography in Silver? Did Tropper, like Silver in his youth, use the band for meeting women? Tropper smirked. “Well, I played piano in a covers band, but that didn’t especially help with girls. There is never a piano around after the shows. Guys with the guitars were the ones who got lucky,” he said.
Back when he was a kid at Camp Morasha, a co-ed Modern Orthodox sleepaway camp in the Poconos, Tropper played piano for all the camp musical productions. During rehearsals, his homesick younger sister Dassi would run to him and he would hold her tight.