By Dawn Watson
The wealth and glamour of the South Fork are often showcased in books, magazines and newspapers, but it can take a special kind of perspective to find the real heart and soul of the East End.
Janet Berg possesses that special perspective, and this year she captured her sentiments in a little 39-page book titled “Glitz of the Hamptons,” published by Llumina Press. Told from the point of view of an elderly, lost golden retriever, the book touches on all the truly important things about life in this special place, according to the author.
Ms. Berg said the title of her book came from a local newspaper story she had read awhile ago that asked, “Where has the glitz of the Hamptons gone?” The premise of the article gave Ms. Berg pause, she said, and she began to think seriously about the importance of a life fully lived on the East End.
“At that point it actually hit home that this place that I love, where I raised my children, is considered a glitzy place, even though I didnt think of it that way, she said during a recent interview at her East Moriches home. “So I took a walk in my mind through the Hamptons and I realized that in some way we are all lost and searching for the glitz.”
Ms. Berg wrote the book so that readers wouldn’t know the identity — or the species — of the narrator until the end of the story. The author said that she structured the story that way so readers could form their own opinions about the main character. “Most people think its an old man and they are surprised when they discover that hes a dog,” she said.
“At first this character is a secret because I want people to really think about his experiences,” she said of the format for the book that hit store shelves this summer. But I guess the cats out of the bag now.
In “Glitz of the Hamptons,” Ms. Berg has managed to tell a story about the true beauty of the Hamptons and its inhabitants from a fresh and unlikely point of view, according to Eastport-based Books and Brew owner Bridgette Kennedy. She reported that the story by the local author touched a chord with readers, especially pet owners, when the author visited the book store for a reading a few months ago.
In the book, as Glitz the dog travels from east to west, he encounters all sorts of small-scale adventures as he visits the beach, a windmill, the Parrish Art Museum, the Ponquogue bridge and the Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center before he makes his way back home to his family. Even though he is lost and a bit addled, Glitz takes the time to appreciate the little things, like a crab scuttling across a sandy beach or the memory of playing ball with his friend.
Drawing inspiration from her own two golden retrievers, Jade and Jewel — both now deceased — who often accompanied her to the family’s former Westhampton Beach record store, the Record Stop, Ms. Berg said she often wondered what Main Street in Westhampton Beach looked like through the eyes of a dog.
“I would see all different kinds of people there and it was interesting to see how they would behave,” she said. “I started thinking about how it would all look from down on all fours, to see what a dog would appreciate.”
A self-described “shy, dreamy girl” from Massapequa, Ms. Berg said that she has been writing since she was a teenager and has also been a lifelong animal lover. She said that she has always chosen to understand human nature through animal behavior. Explaining why she chose to write the book from a dogs’ point of view, Ms. Berg said simply, “When I see things through a dog’s perspective, I see things a lot better … I see the human spirit.”
It is the celebration of that spirit that makes the book so special, according to Ms. Kennedy. She reported recently that Ms. Berg’s little book that can has been a brisk seller as an inspirational gift item.
“It’s a beautiful book and we sell a lot of copies as gifts,” she said. “And it also makes you reminisce about whats so special about Long Island.”
Ms. Berg, a substitute teacher and former Dan’s Papers writer, recently completed courses in the Master of Fine Arts degree program in writing at Stony Brook Southampton. She is currently working on a sequel to “Glitz” and has also just finished her first full-length novel, Rembrandt’s Shadow, a book about a Dutch art dealer ‘s daughter during the in Holocaust.