Monday, December 12, 2005

Another novel to look out for--preorder it from Amazon!...--in 2006

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.


  1. yes yes, this book is marvellous. Her previous one, COME CLOSER, is excellent too -- a quiet, little book that oh so stealthily morphs into a horror novel (the hardback was from Soho Press, but the paperback will be out from Putnam probably in the spring.)

  2. Thank you Jenny! (and Sarah!) You guys are the nicest.

    Sara Gran

  3. You convinced me. I ordered Dope today. Thanks!