Oh, I've just read the most extraordinarily good novel, really mind-bendingly good (not to mention envy-producing; you know those metaphysical questions of the "what would you change about yourself?" kind? well, lots of things come to mind--not to be inappropriately confessional, but I'd love to be able to fall asleep reliably at a suitable hour, or not to have any taste for alcohol, or to be a person who felt calm even when I wasn't wearing a watch; but really the time that I feel a question like that has the most relevance is when I read a book like this and think "I wish I were capable of writing a novel like this one!").
The novel is Dope by Sara Gran (here's the link for her blog--with interesting and harrowing details of returning to New Orleans post-K--and here's her main website). And it's the perfect, perfect, perfect female noir novel I've been wanting to read for all my life. The voice and setting are excellent--New York, May 1950--and it's got a nice twisty plot and an absolutely heartbreaking ending.
It's funny, I first heard about this book at Sarah Weinman's and was so worked up about how good it sounded that I e-mailed my unbelievably patient go-to guy for books that haven't yet been published and he kindly forwarded the galley at once. But somehow (it's a modest little volume, attractively put together too insofar as you can tell from the limited-distribution proof) it vanished beneath a heap of unread TLS/NYRB-type periodicals. And then in a happy blog-related development one of Sara Gran's own posts on the headlines page at the excellent MetaxuCafe caught my eye, I followed up on it and remembered--synchronicity...--that sitting somewhere in my apartment was this book that was EXACTLY WHAT I MOST WANTED TO READ RIGHT NOW.
No summary is going to do it justice, this is a book you need to read for yourself. But here's a passage I particularly liked. The narrator (Josephine Flannigan, former child of Hell's Kitchen, now in her early thirties and off heroin for two years, recently enlisted to track down a Westchester girl who's slipped away from Barnard into the heroin demimonde) is looking for a source in Bryant Park:
I walked around until I saw someone I knew. Monte. He was sitting on a bench in the shade of a big tree, smoking a cigarette. He wore a tan summer suit with a few spots on it and a wide-brimmed hat that looked like it had passed through a dozen men before it had come to him. It had been a good three years since I'd seen him in person, but he'd aged about thirty, and in all the wrong ways. He couldn't have weighed much more than a hundred pounds. His hair had thinned out, he had misplaced one of his front teeth, and there was a new scar just by his ear on the left side from a knife fight.
He was my husband.
Anyway, it's great, the writing is beautiful & the story's completely gripping. I must get all her other books and read them at once.