Thursday, March 25, 2010

David Peace: Preoccupied City?

"Tokyo Vice"
(Image from New York Times)

Concerning David Peace's recent novel, Occupied City, which I haven't read, Justin Cartwright has written for the New York Times an intriguing review titled "Tokyo Vice" that begins like this:
When I started to read David Peace's new novel, I had, frankly, absolutely no idea of what was going on. The opening line: "In the occupied city, you are a writer and you are running." As it turns out, the idea of running -- "step by step-step by step" -- is endlessly, mind-numbingly repeated and reworked in this novel.
That doesn't sound like entirely unambiguous praise to start a review, but I really had no idea what Mr. Cartwright was up to, for he soon proceeds to assure us:
Mercifully, it soon became apparent that "Occupied City" is an extraordinary and highly original crime novel, based on a notorious true-life poisoning of bank workers in occupied Tokyo in 1948.
Cartwright eventually returns, by review's end, alternately quoting and unquoting, enchanted and dismayed, to ambiguous high praise:
At times the novel's prose takes on an almost hypnotic rhythm as it settles into a kind of modernist repetition of ­phrases: "Tear by drop-drop, foot by step-step . . . drop-drop, step-step." For pages at a time, sentences start with "In the occupied city." Peace presumably intends for all this repetition to lend his book a lyrical authenticity and poetic exoticism, but really it makes him sound like Rain Man. But stick with him. Once you get past the irritation and the claustrophobia the language sometimes induces, this is a truly remarkable work. It is hugely daring, utterly irresistible, deeply serious and unlike anything I have ever read.
Has Cartwright been hypnotically absorbed by a flawed novel? Is it truly so absorbing? Would I, too, be absorbed? Would the very flaws absorb me? Am I to be absorbed, preoccupied by my own flaws?

Courtesy of Amazon, we can all have a "Look Inside". . .



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