Author: David Gordon
Publisher: New Harvest
Date of Publication: July 16, 2013
Two Sentence Summary: Sam is a failing novelist, a connoisseur of film and literature, whose life begins to unravel when wife Lala announces that she wants to leave him. In an attempt to land a stable job, he finds himself the (un)-official assistant to genius and madman Solar Lonsky, who sends Sam deep into a case involving a mysterious woman, whose punk rock life and famed underground-artistic-collaborations Sam must retroactively track to untangle Lonsky's mystery.
"That's why almost all books about obsession are to some degree artful lies: real obsession, thinking that one thought over and over forever, is so boring it would be unreadable. In this regard, all of literature's great maniacas of love, Stendhal, Miller, Hamsun, Nabokov, even Proust (although he pushes it farthest for sure), distort the endlessness of true fixation, the monotony of pain and desire, as they transform it into pleasure, into art."
Things I Think: This book is a treasure trove for the literary nerd. Protagonist Sam is insanely well read, and while his ability to draw Proust parallels has failed to serve him well in life, the referential constellations he creates make this a geekily enjoyable read. I found myself flagging many of the film and book references to follow up with later; they all play a crucial role in the plot, and heavily inform Gordon's stylistic choices. (In press releases, the author calls out Hitchcock's "Vertigo" as particularly influential.)
Gordon's characters are fascinating in their wackiness, and he has successfully fleshed out their back stories with enough intricacy to make their oddities fully believable. Self-appointed detective Solar Lonsky is the finest example of this impressive character work. Morbidly obese and agoraphobic, his choice to hire Sam as his eyes, ears and legs in the outer world makes perfect sense. Lonsky veers in and out of manic episodes (which inevitably land him in psychiatric lockdown) but maintains a firm grasp of the "mystery girl's" case he is so desperate to solve.
For a mystery novel to be written with such literary diction and affection for the academic was a definite surprise for me, and it was certainly welcome. I plan to immediately follow up this read with Gordon's award-winning debut novel, "The Serialist."