by Lisa Finn
Call it the little book that could.
Chances are, if you’ve gone anywhere at all on the East End recently, you’ve seen author Janet Berg’s new book, Glitz of the Hamptons. From bookstores to bagel shops, the little book is prominently displayed in a big way, and readers across the board have been singing its praises.
Perhaps one reason for the tome’s popularity is its heartfelt message, portrayed with aching honesty as an elderly character proceeds on an emotional journey throughout the Hamptons – searching for home.
Included in the book are renderings of Hamptons landmarks.
Berg’s own “journey” toward writing her book began when she and her husband owned a family music business, Record Stop, on Main Street in Westhampton Beach. Although the shop is now located in Lake Ronkonkoma, the memories of Westhampton Beach remained vivid.
“One day the heading of a local newspaper article caught my eye and made me think. It read, ‘Wheres the glitz of the Hamptons?’ It struck me funny,” she said. “I tried to define the meaning of glitz that day. I had never really thought of where I lived as “glitzy.” It was where I had raised my two children. It was always just home for us. So ‘glitz’ holds a different meaning for me, and many others.”
As she wrote her book, Berg felt compelled to illustrate “magic” of the Hamptons through the eyes of someone special, a character who was sensitive to the area’s natural beauty.
Of the books main character, Berg said, “I always think of my grandfather, the little Italian shoemaker – not much unlike Gepetto. A humble, hardworking man who stood proudly behind his handmade counter, mending people’s soles. The main character in my book is aging and lost, to show the younger generation compassion and respect for the elderly.
Back during the days when their shop was located in Westhampton, a deep affection for the East End was born. “The love of running the business was not material driven,” she said. “It was about the people on the street — Main Street. Locals and tourists alike.”
Berg connected with her clientele. “Sometimes I felt like a bartender,” she said. “I’d get to know customers by name, what they needed. It was great fun to talk to them, and they were grateful when we gave them good service.”
Memories of that time helped capture the magic of a Hamptons summer — an ephemeral quality intrinsically woven into the fabric of Berg’s book. “I recall one evening when an elderly white-haired gentleman stood outside on the sidewalk, and mimicked my daughter, who was standing inside the window doing the Macarena. It was very Norman Rockwell.”
Memories formed the foundation for a book that has captured the hearts of Hamptonites today. “Mixing of the young and the old, the locals and out-of-towners brought us great energy, “she said. “In retrospect, I learned about the true glitz of the Hamptons. And what was lasting wasnt really about the hype and the hoopla, the glamour and the glitter.”
Standing at the window of her shop, Berg observed the people — the children and tourists and locals who comprised the colorful canvas of Westhampton Beach. “I was inspired to write about our Hamptons villages, where the community gathered,” she said. “It’s such a shame these Main Streets aren’t in every town. Society needs Main Streets. What a wonderful thing if we could re-establish the real glitz of America, make more memories of humanity. Memories may fade a bit in our minds, but never in our hearts.”
Berg, who currently lives in East Moriches, is pursuing an MFA in Writing at Stony Brook University at Southampton. She has worked for over 10 years as a substitute teacher with elementary schoolchildren, and has recently completed a children’s chapter book and an adult novel.
Her life has been colored by her love of literature. “As a child, I was most touched by two books, Old Yeller and The Diary of Anne Frank — they were my introduction into writing.
Shy as a child, Berg later worked as a flight attendant. She traveled the world, she said, in search of something, which has actually been right here the entire time. “I still love to travel, but have finally realized that what we need most is right here. ”
As a writer, Berg draws inspiration from her surroundings. “Slow down and look at what’s around you. Animals dont fear death, so I like to observe them and learn from nature.”
Berg’s book is a tale for adults, one they can share with children, as a means of imbuing respect for the elderly.
The author has a message for her readers: “People are always curious,” she said. “They will always look for glitz. Sometimes, you’re lucky and it’s right in your backyard. Its knowing what ‘home’ means. “