Wednesday, October 12, 2016

What A Grand, Dickensian Trope!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

                                                    "City on fire, rats in the street, it's the end of the world!"
                                                       ---Stephen Sondheim, "Sweeney Todd"

                                              When this novel came out last year, I had every intention of reading it.  I only recently finished it, and my single regret is I did not read it in 2015, for it certainly would have made my Book Of The Year!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

                                                Garth Risk Hallberg references every encapsulating detail about Manhattan, especially the East Village, in the late 70's.  But his reach goes as far as the swanky Upper East Side, the Upper West Side, and as far as Flower Hill, Long Island.

                                                 My two favorite characters were Samantha and Charlie.  And why not?
They were not much younger than I was at the time, though I experienced some of that East Village nastiness, but always from the gay perspective--and I lived to admit it!  But the way Hallberg brings all his characters and situations together is just breathtaking.  No one but Dickens can do this, and I have no doubt Mr. D was a big influence on Mr. H.

                                                  As was Victor Hugo.  When you have heard the name Fantine, on here, you know I am talking about the tragic character in "Les Miz," be it novel or musical.

                                                   In an unusual way that blew me away, Mr. Hallberg pays homage to Fantine.  The tragic Samatha is shot, hospitalized, and basically placed in a Karen Ann Quinlan--another past reference!!!!!!!!--situation.  Two of the most devoted nurses watching over Sam, as he prefers to be called, are named Mary-Pat and Fantine.  I am convinced Mr. Hallberg intended this, because it is a role reversal of sorts--in the Hugo novel, Sister Simplice  watches especially over the dying Fantine, because  the other sisters refuse to go near her, since she had been a prostitute.  Hallberg has made Fantine here his novel's Sister Simplice, and Sam his Fantine!  Talk about emotional resonance with readers!!!!!!!!!!!!!

                                                  As for length, Hallberg's tome runs over nine hundred pages.  While it seems daunting, it is one of the fastest nine hundred page reads I had the pleasure of enjoying.  And had wished it had kept on going.

                                                      When I closed the book, I let out an elongated "Wow!"  I felt for the novel, and all of its characters.  I recognized characters and phrases ("Shooting galleries?"  I had forgotten that one!  Not a part of my life, but, hey I knew!) long past.  I sympathized with all in the book, but I sympathized with Mr. Hallberg, at the end.  This is his first novel, and it is such a stunner, his is going to be a tough act to follow!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

                                                          Which does not mean I don't wish him the best, and await his next endeavor!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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