Edge

You Wanna Get Lit? New novels by Todd McEwen, Michel Houellebecq, and Andrew Lewis Conn

WHO SLEEPS WITH KATZ?
By Todd McEwen

Writing in a frenetic prose, Todd McEwen espouses the need for urban life and the memories its sundry elements can arouse in Who Sleeps with Katz? To MacK, a radio announcer who’s doctor just disclosed that he has lung cancer, his gods live within New York City – “the gods that deliver,” e.g., the local delicatessen, the gas company, City Hall – and as he wanders the streets, wondering which cigarette could have been the cause of his demise, reminiscences and flashbacks (old lovers, former jobs, his last martini…) ricochet against the buildings of Manhattan. His daylong journey would accrue to meeting his best friend, Isidor Katz, a cerebral bookshop owner who speaks aloud to himself, at The Hour, the bar at the end of the road with the foreboding name. With dialogue interspersed in the narrative and hard-hitting sentences shaped in snappy structures (caps, italics and exclamation marks abound), McEwen describes the sheer devotion of MacK and Izzy’s friendship, whilst revealing the bittersweet love both characters have for the city.

PLATFORM
By Michel Houellebecq

French writer Michel Houellebecq has stirred controversy in the literary world because of his provocative misanthropy and Islam-bashing in his new novel, Platform. But this story of an insignificant man, disillusioned with Western culture and its capitalistic absurdities, is more than just controversial. Rather, he adequately depicts the current state of ennui and displeasure of the average man in Western society, while musing on the avalanche of repercussions fostered by a world of people who all want to accede to the platform of power. The story begins with the death of Michel’s father (a similar opening to Albert Camus’ The Stranger) as he describes his indifference to the event. He decides to go on a group vacation to Thailand, where he meets Valerie, a kindhearted libertine working in the tourism industry. Eventually, at Michel’s suggestion, she launches “sex” resorts with her travel company, where visitors could potentially find a mate. The initiative is an instant success, but it also awaits the terrorist reaction of Muslim fundamentalists. Platform is engrossing and often wittily humorous, but, most of all, it’s brutally honest.

P
By Andrew Lewis Conn

Crafted in a Ulysses-type mold around themes of loss, loneliness and love, Andrew Lewis Conn’s debut novel P strikingly denudes the minds of two jaundiced and peripatetic souls-Benjamin Seymour, a blasE New York City pornographer haunted by his dead lover, Penelope, and Finn, a gifted 10-year-old fugitive with a premature world-weariness. Both will cross paths and attempt to reconcile their longings for family and home and appease their existential dread, which is highlighted by Conn’s cinematic fervor and copious writing style (metaphors, flashbacks, introspections and a 100-page chapter in screenplay format, adding a histrionic dimension to the work). However, while the book is thick with detail (e.g., a pertinent history of the porn industry), it becomes cumbersome when these are superfluous to the story (such as an exhaustive catalog of Finn’s library).

Omar Sommereyns can be reached out at SOASIS@aol.com

September 5, 2003

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