Friday, May 20, 2016
The First Novel Is Poetry...: Sunset City by Melissa Ginsburg; Gravesend by William Boyle
"I thought about the dust-on top of the fridge, and other dust that I couldn't see-fan blades, window frames. I imagined I could hear it gathering, a tiny army collecting in troops. When my mom was alive the house was always dusty, a mess everywhere, especially around her favourite chair. On bad days she might accidentally knock over a glass of Diet Coke and not even clean it up. Right now I could relate."
Compulsive reading for sure- think Megan Abbott crossed with Sara Gran, I still found myself wanting Ginsburg to delve even deeper into her characters and subject matter. I kept thinking- and perhaps this is unfair- how the late noir poet Lynda Hull might have handled Ginsburg's characters and subject matter. But that's a minor criticism, because this is an excellent first novel written with a poet's eye.
"After hanging up, she just stared at herself, feeling like she'd run her life far off the rails and wondering if she should just wallow in the mess at the bottom of things. Drink every day at The Wrong Number. Say to hell with work. Become one of these neighbourhood ghosts, old allies in wrinkled black clothes that just skeleton around on feet like broken shopping cart wheels. When it got real bad, she could just dig in trash bins for bottles like the old Chinese, haul them down to Waldbaum's for drinking money, live int his house until her father died and they took it away from her and then she could go to a home, the one over on Cropsey, where she'd wear Salvation Army clothes and lose her hair and teeth in the sink. An actress? Forget it. Once maybe, in another city and another time. Just wispy bones and yellowing skin now. The old boozer that kids throw rocks at for kicks."
These are both first novels, and reading them made me wonder if it's true that a novelist- particularly a writer of noir fiction- writes his or her first book in a kind of fevered dream that resembles, and sometimes is, poetry, followed by books inevitably written with a more conscious and prosaic eye. I hope not, because it's the former that I like when I read noir fiction and which both these books so ably demonstrate. Needless to say, I'm looking forward to reading what comes next.