segunda-feira, 22 de junho de 2015
Trial by flame: The Rodney King verdict is handed down. Credit Steve Grayson/WireImage, via Getty Images
In recent years, riot footage has practically become a subgenre of documentary filmmaking. We recognize the hallmarks — advancing police phalanxes, protesters in retreat, looters, burning cruisers, cameras tracking airborne projectiles — without always understanding the causes. While the 1992 Los Angeles riots lacked the exhaustive citizen reportage of more recent incidents, there was enough videotape running back then to give the rest of the country the lasting impression of a restless city entirely engulfed in chaos. In his latest novel, “All Involved,” Ryan Gattis imagines a narrative that, while mostly tangential to that chaos, attempts to give it more meaningful context through personalization.
Gattis’s premise is provocative: In the six days following the verdict of April 29, 1992, that acquitted three white police officers of using excessive force on Rodney King, the Los Angeles Police Department was so focused on the most violent manifestations of civil unrest that much of the rest of the city went unregulated. “All Involved” consists of 17 different perspectives, a majority of which issue from characters who have all been involved in some manner of illegal activity. As their neighborhood, Lynwood, plunges into general lawlessness because the police are struggling elsewhere, the path becomes clear for these individuals to go extra rogue, settling scores that mostly revolve around revenge and betrayal.
Ripples of violence — in gruesome detail — radiate from the murder of Ernesto Vero, a law-abiding citizen whose brother and sister happen to have ties to Lynwood’s most notorious gangster clique. What starts out as a mini-mystery — who killed Ernie? — quickly sprawls into a weblike tale of logistics and gangland tactics: How do we get guns and access to the guys who took out Ernie? How do we keep the families of the guys who got Ernie from coming back at us? A great many favors, lies, beatdowns and bullets are exchanged against a backdrop of raging fires, property damage and widespread paranoia.
Unfortunately, “All Involved” often feels a bit too rigidly orchestrated alongside such disorder. Gattis has chosen a difficult challenge in creating so many separate narrators, never revisiting a particular point of view after that person’s tale is told. Switching tone and dialect can do only so much — especially when Lil Creeper, Lil Mosco, Big Fate and Lupe Payasa Vera all hail from relatively similar backgrounds. Mostly, Gattis distinguishes his characters by allowing them to ramble and reflect at length about their respective histories, dreams and circumstances. But these extensive and occasionally meandering inner monologues seem out of place, if not de-escalating, in moments of real peril and tension.
And while Gattis writes in a breezy, frictionless style, he winds his Lynwood microcosm too tightly. Characters cross paths when they needn’t. Story lines intersect in contrived ways. In one of the novel’s more exhilarating sequences, a young graffiti artist sets off to skip town on the fifth day of the riots, stopping only to memorialize Ernesto in spray paint on a city bus. The sequence sings, in part because Gattis is himself a street artist and revels in the language and art of vandalism. It also feels like a reprieve to a dozen different takes on the same tragic story. But when the tagger sells his last gun to a junior criminal who just happens to have been present at Ernesto’s murder and who, brandishing the newly acquired weapon, returns to Ernesto’s home to join up with the gang seeking vengeance, it strips the moment of its simple, random, undogmatic beauty. By now we’ve seen enough rocks, bottles and threats hurtled to not always need to be told where they come from.
By Ryan Gattis
372 pp. Ecco/HarperCollins Publishers. $27.99.
Neil Drumming is a writer and filmmaker whose feature debut was “Big Words.”
Posted by Francisco Augusto Vaz Brasil at 19:18