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Friday, August 10, 2012

Tabloid City

Pete Hamill's New York City is very New York City, a bubbling stew of every flavor and every color. The rich and the poor rub shoulders and mix and mingle. The sense of a village that is both large and small is strong enough to make all the crosspaths of the characters believable. Like New York itself, the novel hits all your senses, including the nose and tongue.

Thinking about the structure, I realized that this is essentially a "flat" novel. Obstensibly there is a temporal direction in the narrative that covers a period of two nights and one day in between. In reality it is primarily of a static cross-section of New York, describing the lives and points of view of a dozen characters, each occuping a social/ethnic stratum and a neighborhood.

The forward narrative, involving a half-hearted attempt at a murder mystery and thriller cliche, is the weakest part of the novel and poorly constructed. I wish he had more faith in the vitality of his characters' "static" snapshot, so as to let go of the mystery/thriller cliche altogether.

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