the kind of grit lit i like is the kind that juxtaposes its violence or desolation with a vivid, lyrical prose. i love that contrast. it’s what makes me reach for Daniel Woodrell or Ron Rash; it’s what makes Suttree my favorite mccarthy, it’s what made deadwood such a popular show. a little beauty transforms the bleak into the heroic, makes the bitterness more bearable.
there is nothing beautiful here. this is just pure, hard, angry true grit.
on the one hand—yes—it is very effective. it’s a relentless whirlpool sucking its characters and readers into an ever-tightening coil of death and drugs and murder and teen prostitution and weapons and betrayal and more and more and more in a stripped-down prose that stains the page sometimes with as little as a single sentence.
on the other hand, sometimes it seems to be trying too hard to shock; to be playing for the grotesque. this is what having that layer of lyrical prose can sometimes mitigate. it stirs the emotions and inspires more than just visceral revulsion. and i don’t mean this, from the back cover:
…she so quickly gets to the core of Nikki, her young heroine, who’s only beginning to learn about her power over the people around her—learning too early, perhaps, but also just soon enough, if not too late.
thankfully, that was not the tone of the book, because that sentence on the back of the book nearly made me change my mind about reading it.
and i’m glad i read it. i think the character arc is tremendous, but it’s the kind of book you appreciate more after you read it than while you are actually reading it. if you like James Ellroy or Denis Johnson, two authors mentioned as comparisons that i meant to have read by this point in my life, this might ring different bells for you than it rang for me.
i think i will try to write a better review for this tomorrow.
let’s pause for now.
so, yeah—it’s a really strong character study—a coming of age that tracks a young girl’s simultaneous descent into criminality and decadence and ascent into…well, okay, her ascent is also something of a descent. it’s complicated. nasty, brutish and short, baby.
pausing doesn’t seem to have helped that much. holiday season saps me utterly.