While school’s in session for a few more weeks, my blog posts will consist of exciting book musings. Exciting! Musings!
First up, John Langan’s excellent first novel, House of Windows. The novel centers around Veronica (young, beautiful grad student) and Roger (65 yr old divorcee, well-established and respected Dickens scholar/professor, who’s son Ted had joined the Army and is killed in Afghanistan) and their complex relationship/marriage, the relationships they have/had with their parents, and ultimately the relationships they have with themselves as well. Langan isn’t interested in heroes, and Roger and Veronica are painfully human, and he has the courage in a first novel to devote a lot of time to developing them, big fat warts and all. It more than pays off when the strange occurrences at the Belvedere house begin to take place. Langan offers no easy answers or explanations to the happenings, which give the proceedings the weight of reality even as reality breaks down for his characters. And within these shifting threads of the narrative, character motivation, and even of the physical house itself, the idea of story (and how we’re defined by story) is everywhere.
“Dickens tries to come to terms with his childhood traumas, his adult ambivalences, by writing about them over and over. Hawthorne tries to clarify his Puritan legacy to himself in story after story. Whenever something happens to you–something too much–you create a story to deal with it, to define if not contain it.”
Dave Zeltserman’s Pariah takes noir for a ride with one of the more despicable characters this side of Bret Easton Ellis’s Patrick Bateman (from American Psycho). Kyle Nevin is let out of prison after a 9 year stint for a foiled bank robbery, with now on-the-lam Southie crime boss Red Mahoney as the guy who ratted Kyle out. Kyle isn’t exactly into reform or starting a new life. He wants revenge, and anyone in his way doesn’t stay in his way for long. Like Bateman, Kyle as a violent sociopath, a force of nature (one from which we can’t look away), albeit a cultivated one. He’s a wonderfully unreliable narrator, even pseudo-confessing to inaccuracies (or him replacing actual events with some over-the-top American male, consumer obsessed type fantasies) to an unnamed “editor.” Yeah, an editor, as in Kyle is ready and willing and even able (despite a horribly botched kidnapping attempt) to cash in on his celebrity.
Pariah is at turns brutal, violent, and a funny, scathing satire of our celebrity obsessed consumer culture and publishing industry. Really couldn’t put the book down, I poured through it in one day.