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“So Chinatown withered. Went from egg-drop to pin-drop.”

Adam Sternbergh, Shovel Ready

The lovingly destroyed New York is evidence of that: it’s really obviously great fun to do, if we judge by how many times we get to see it each year, a boy’s game everybody gets a turn at. Sternbergh’s terrorist attacks aren’t quite as inventive as Nathaniel Rich’s grand flood, but the notion of the city persisting, half-full, is evocative. But the apocalypse is basically setting, background, something for the characters to run around on and deliver one-liners about (this one being particularly tidy, but Sternbergh keeps such a very very impressive pace with his quips that the grand guignol spatter of the plot mechanics has trouble keeping up sometimes; apocalypse as standup act). Again, ‘work of art’ is too strong a criterion, especially because Shovel Ready aims so clearly to be an entertainment, an effortless performance — but there’s not much ballasting the flawless execution of genre moves here.

Crown 01.14.14



February 07, 2014, 9:30am  Comments

ben marcus, the flame alphabet

“Esther was probably riding a horse right now, wearing the black Mary Janes she refused to shed for anyone, even if it was a shit-clotted field she needed to cross. Or she was lugging a saddle to the stable, or standing not-so-patiently as someone overexplained something Esther already knew. At home she fumed when you doled out information she took to be a given. Anything factual went without saying. Esther opposed repetition, opposed the obvious, showed resistance to anything that resembled an instructional phrase, a word of advice, a sentence that carried, however politely, a new piece of information. These were off-limits, or else would be scorched by her temper. Out in the world I wondered how she concealed it.”

Normal teenage behavior. This is the start of, and really the inverse of, Marcus’s nightmare, though: the ability of the teenager to wound her parents with curtness, or silence. This is before they realize that she wounds them, literally rather than emotionally, with her speech, and which is the first of the loosely-nested series of metaphors that get suggested behind the icky apocalyptic sci-fi of the main plot.

Knopf 01.17.12



January 17, 2012, 11:00am   Comments