OK, I'm breaking a rule here. I vowed NOT to showcase an "annointed" book by an "annointed" author (he's one of Oprah's)...items where the PR machine's already chugging away. But Andre Dubus is cool. House of Sand and Fog was great. The film was great (prurient crush on Jennifer Connelly notwithstanding, though I met her at a party at the UN last year and let's just say I'll stick with my fantasies and visions of her in earlier movies like The Hot Spot or Mulholland Falls). The Garden of the Last Days (W.W. Norton 2008 ) dropped on Monday. Buy it here. Already they (the literatti pr types) are saying this is the first great 9-11 novel. And of course the dumbasses out there are giving us the hook line: "Is America ready for a 9-11 that shows a "postive" side of terrorists? Well, this isn't truly about 9-11. Nor are we seeing any "positive" side of friggin' terrorists. Andre seeded this by trying to write a short story imagining a life--and appointment with destiny (I always loved that phrase) based on the stripper who danced for a cadre of 9-11 hijackers in Daytona Beach this place called the Pink Pony. If you recall, Florida was the spot where these dickheads paid cash to rednecks to learn how to fly, and from where one cell migrated north to seize American Airlines flight 11. Everything crazy happens either in Florida or Germany. Anyway, the manuscript grew and grew to something his editor whittled down to 535 bookprint pages.
I'm about halfway through it. I love it. Now, here's the rub. This book is just a new flavor in a now amorphous genre which, like an amoeba, seems to send it's gelatinous pseudopods out to capture all kinds of strange themes, pairings of real and imagined people, etc. I'm doing it too in upcoming works. You take a situation in history and some real people and inject it into a fiction plot. You expand on secondary or even tertiary characters in great films, classic literature, etc. You re-interpret villians from those same works, or the protagonists themselves. Does this mean the book biz is out of ideas, and so are authors? Now we just mine...scavenge...old stuff? Well, fresh ideas are there, but, like the music biz, no one wants to be bothered with them. Not enough $$$ in it, and it would involve raising the bridge for the American public, rather than the usual lowering of the river. But folk like Dubus have the balls and the talent to make this type of story work...and yeah, to make murders "human," (and human here don't mean positive, fanboys and girls), to weave in it a conflicted, flawed fictional character and that sense of phony and seedy that is south Florida (I guess the non-comic analog to Hiassen). Here is crappy corner of the world, populated by crappy people, on September 10th...
Like Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson) said about John Lennon in The Departed: " He said 'I'm an artist. Give me a fuckin' tuba and I'll get something out of it for ya.'"
Dubus is an artist. This novel is art for our young, insipid century. The Garden of Last Days. Read it and learn.