sexta-feira, 22 de novembro de 2013
The Destroyers Patrick deWitt and James Boice are reinventing the novel with blunt force By Tom Chiarella
Patrick deWitt and James Boice are
reinventing the novel with blunt force
By Tom Chiarella
If I never read another novel about New York, inky with the bio of the newly minted M.F.A. describing the lively commerce of the slouching, wag-waisted populace of that writer's inner circle, I might still believe in the breadth and depth of that great city. Once, it seemed the novel form might just be mutable enough to be reinvented, not merely repeated, in the hands of the young, the angry, the arrogant. The very compact of the endeavor seemed to include the possibility that books could be written to blow up, reassemble, even replace the ideas of books that came before them.
James Boice and Patrick deWitt seem to remember that charge. Their new books — Boice's The Good and the Ghastly (Scribner, $24) and deWitt's The Sisters Brothers (Ecco, $25) — still do the underappreciated craftwork of making a good story first. Boice leans into a purposefully bland, postapocalyptic future, 13 centuries hence, while deWitt reposits the western as a lucid dream chase, log-piled with the opiated citizens of a world two centuries gone. One looks forward, the other back. At some core level, each is a thrilling revenge story, punctuated by signature violence that feels both hyperbolic and routine. In this, they are somewhat alike. And while this is not meant to be a comparison/contrast, maybe it should be. These are great books, new books, books that speak broadly to what we want from a novel, and more specifically to what we should demand from emergent writers — reformulation, reinvention — something new about the world beyond them.
Boice's The Good and the Ghastly is your standard bildungsroman, slipped into the dystopic 34th century, a time when everything is owned by Visa, when deer have become house pets, and Bob Dylan is misremembered as an assassin. The conflict between a rising gangster and a vigilante mother who pursues him is open and epic in its curve. The prose, ringingly clear, sometimes maddeningly flat, is always well footed. As in his first novel, MVP, about a basketball star with a striking similarity to Kobe Bryant, Boice deals a somewhat slight, often sly variation on the world we live in now, so that even the money we spend on it may be a kind of ticket to a half hell we're reading about. It hasn't happened yet, but the book lives.
DeWitt, looking back, unspools a lushly voiced picaresque story. A frontier chase, dark in tone and music, all flickering oil lamps and horse hooves in the dark, a place where murder is like climbing a fence, tricky but doable, and the mind is the juiciest piece of technology anyone can get their hands on, morphine the software that bends it. It's a kind of True Grit told by Tom Waits. Two brothers with the last name Sisters are sent to kill a man named Warm, to pursue him for their shadowy maker, known only as the Commodore, across the West. At first glance, this too could be mistaken for a plainer version of the now, but it's so richly told, so detailed, that what emerges is a weird circus of existence, all steel shanks and ponies, gut shots and medication poured into the eyeholes of the dying. At some level, this too is a kind of revenge story, marvelously blurry. That time is gone, yet there it is, alive and nasty in its compassionate grip on things.
Boice's distant future feels wholly like the now. DeWitt's recent past creates its own lurid present. Murder and revenge, satire and adventure. Maybe nothing new is really new. Just blown up, remade, reinvented.
And One More:
The Great Night (FSG, $26), by Chris Adrian, is a modern retelling of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream. There are two parallel stories: one about three lost souls who meet in San Francisco's Buena Vista Park. Another about a population of fairies who fly and cast spells and devour lavish banquets. Still with us? Good. Because Adrian — Harvard Divinity student; pediatric oncology fellow; author of three novels, including The Children's Hospital — can pack more depth of understanding about what makes a human human into a single page than many novelists wedge into entire books. More than perhaps any author today, he understands people. His characters, whether men or pixies, are us: They cry and experience great pain. They fear sickness and mortality. They have sex out of love and screw out of recklessness. In fact, the scariest and most surprising thing about The Great Night is that it's proof that some lives and conditions and heartbreaks and losses and joys are so bewildering, they can only be understood as myths. —Tyler Cabot
Posted by Francisco Augusto Vaz Brasil at 21:15