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Another fine mess

Reader fan critic teacher reader fan.

Currently reading

Ottessa Moshfegh
Knife Fight and Other Struggles
David Nickle
Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity
Andrew Solomon
The Good Lord Bird
James McBride
Ancillary Justice
Ann Leckie
Our Underachieving Colleges: A Candid Look at How Much Students Learn and Why They Should Be Learning More (New Edition)
Derek Bok
Dissident Gardens
Jonathan Lethem
Nightmare Movies: Horror on Screen Since the 1960s
Kim Newman
The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood
James Gleick
Complete Novels
Dashiell Hammett, Steven Marcus
Savage Night - Allan Guthrie A comedy of t/errors which draws on the fatalism of a particular kind of noir, where you know that every step a character makes to get out of a situation actually cements his (and her) doom. But with more decapitations, and a kind of vicious glee at the darkest twists in plot.

For a short while, maybe 30 pages (?), I wasn't feeling it. Very Tarantino, I thought, which is a kind of cheap and easy bit of criticism that may often be true of the text but also lets me off the hook from having to make any kind of sense of the author's game. And I'm glad I stuck with it, 'cause Guthrie's more a cousin, connected by wit and sensibility and pulpy adoration to a common family-tree, but with an intriguing subtext of compassion for these vicious, dipshit duelling families.

The plot? Tommy Savage is being harassed by a Mr. Smith, who wants some kind of unclearly-defined revenge. Meanwhile Andy Park is seeking some kind of unclearly-defined revenge. What gives this book an edge are:

--a truly inspired jigsawing of the timeline, situating us midway through and long prior to the night in question, jumping forward a few hours, slinging back three days, and shuffling p.o.v. each time. You won't be O-henried, 'cause the outcomes are pretty much laid out right there on the cover's image of hacksaws and knives, but the deep-background of motivations and missteps gets almost farcically delightful;

--a crisp, cruddy vernacular prose, which stinks of the cheap beer and back alleys, and;

--that sense of humanity. There's a scene I won't spoil where Park contemplates something pretty horrendous, yet Guthrie has developed such a strong sense of this man's affections that it feels oddly loving. Juggling the vicious and the empathetic, the ghoulish glee and an attention to emotional consequence, the farce and the fatalistic ... it's a tonal workout, and kind of a blast to read.

If you go in for this kind of bloody thing, that is.