Sunday, April 30, 2006

Female noir

A very good and quite unsettling little psychological thriller, Danzy Senna's Symptomatic, a novel of passing and stalkers and sublets. Not the book to have read just before going to bed, I fear: the scenario is stylized (the stalking is more like a haunting, you get the sense that the female biracial stalker Greta is like a kind of ghostly double for the blurry main character who is also biracial) but the feelings are incredibly vividly realized, I was particularly appalled and convinced by the description of the horrible sublet. The novel bears comparison with the other same-sex stalking novel in my mind, Enduring Love; now I am off on stalker-subset mental list-making, but I think that genre crime fiction must be mostly excluded or the list would get too long. I really loved Senna's first novel Caucasia; the main character here is not so appealing, but it's an elegant and striking book in its own right & I will look forward with considerable interest to her next novel.


  1. This reminds me a bit of a novel I found very creepy, "in the cut" -- it featured a sort-of stalker. If you've read it, you'll know what I mean about the creepiness re. the ending (which was changed for the movie, starring Meg Ryan and directed by Jane Champion). What disturbed me about it most I think was the curious passivity of the main character, she let men behave so badly to her, and seemed to have a death wish. In the end, I did not like the novel. Any views?

    I did not think the stalking parts of Enduring Love worked that well. I thought the science journalist bits were good and realistic, but somehow the stalker was a bit risible. All the more so in the movie, which I felt really did not work in this regard. (Plus they changed the profession of the main character which I thought a pity -- but I am getting off the point).

  2. I thought "In the Cut" was very good, especially because of the quality of the writing--I bought into the passivity/death-wish aspect on the basis of the precision & emotional effectiveness of the sentences.

    (Here was my original post about it: )

    Didn't see the movie of either of these books, and it's now several years since I read "Enduring Love," but I think I found the stalker stuff quite persuasive. The trouble with being stalked is that it IS risible, right up until when the stalker tries to kill you you feel like a complete fool for complaining about it, and people find it rather amusing, especially in this age where "stalking" has a sort of over-the-top cultural currency! But I find myself very sympathetic to those celebrities who get mocked on talk shows for prosecuting their stalkers; even a good security system gives one little recourse against the stalker, since they are almost by definition oblivious to the normal constraints of embarrassment, self-preservation etc. that might stop a different kind of assailant. I'm interested in the psychology of this, it's the kind of thing I might write a novel about one day.