Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Review: City on Fire

City on Fire City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This novel would have been improved by a great deal of editing. Reducing its more than nine hundred pages would necessarily mean cutting some descriptive passages which were not enhancements to the novel. I had the feeling that the author wanted to demonstrate what a talented writer he could be. But the word that kept coming to my mind was “overwrite.” And I imagined that if he were in a college writing course, he might be critiqued for verbosity.

While I can admire Hallberg’s talent for including a diverse group of characters who somehow become involved with each other, at times their interactions stretched my credibility. There’s the wealthy Upper East Side couple and the woman’s artist brother who’s involved in a gay relationship with a black teacher at a girls’ school, an assortment of punk rock band members squatting in the East Village, a Long Island fireworks manufacturer and his daughter, her Long Island friend, a reporter, a handicapped detective who lives on Staten Island, and more. There are backstories for each one; and sometimes the reader is given a peek at their future lives.

So at times I was exasperated. But having listened to the initial praise for the book and shelling out $30, I felt compelled to finish it. One thought I had was that it might make an interesting television series.


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