As soon as I heard the premise for this book, it was a must read. The main idea: a man watches his neighbors from his balcony and develops a game of winning/losing points based on actions/things he witnesses (person reading +3 points, +6 for fiction, +4 for non-fiction; television on -19 points; couple fighting -9, etc.). He tells his wife about the game, it saves their marriage, they purchase expensive binoculars (“they leave nothing to the imagination!”). A man across the way from the couple discovers them watching, gradually others see the Watching Couple, the building complex turns into a frenzy, fueled by Lonely Man unloading his warehouse of binoculars by way of cryptic notes under everyone’s door. The police are called to visit the Watching Couple, and hear about The Game, which then leaks out to everyone else but without the rules. As a result, a group schemes to raise money to purchase the rules from the Balcony Man (the originator of the game), but he enters the bar and is surprised that everyone wants to know, gladly tells them. Soon everyone is playing The Game, watching everyone. Splinter rules arise. Teams of Sunnyside and Shadowside play each other. People stop watching TV because they are obsessed with the Game, television producers get upset and slither their way into the game by putting up television cameras on the housing blocks so that the world can play the game. People realize that other people can see into their apartments and start buying dummy objects to make themselves look more prosperous (fake grand piano, false waterfall on the wall). Balcony man falls in love with a girl across the way, eventually has a nervous breakdown and visits her, the whole complex watching. Soon after, he trades his apartment to Lonely Man for his villa in the mountains, retreats to nature. Rumors of Balcony Man inventing a new game spring up, and he soon sees people in the woods watching him.
Overall a dumb story, clunky in a 1970s way, making really obvious plot choices. But it fits nicely into exactly what I do when I daydream out my apartment window, seeing my neighbors across the street practicing guitar, working on their laptop, chopping onions. I feel good knowing that I am giving those very neighbors +9 points most nights when they peer across the street into my window (reading, fiction).