Review: “Nightmare Alley” by William Lindsey Gresham
I reviewedNightmare Alley as part of The Spotlight Series on NYRB Classics. The goal of The Spotlight Series is to draw attention to independent presses and raise the profile of their catalog. The full list of other reviews can be found here.
Nearly relentlessly pessimistic and with an overwhelmingly negative view of human nature, Nightmare Alley doesn’t compromise, and Gresham’s brilliant novel stands as a great testament to a writer’s life cut tragically short. Thankfully, New York Review of Books Classics has just republished a restored edition of Gresham’s only novel with a new introduction by Nick Tosches.
Review: “The Manual of Detection” by Jedediah Berry
The Manual of Detection wears its influences on its sleeve—or maybe on every inch of its black suit and fedora. There are labyrinthine archives, a confused man in an unrelentingly mysterious city and people who have a lot more of the answers than us or the main character. To call the book Kafkaesque or Borgesian would be painfully obvious, but it’s also true. There’s also strains of Saramago (especially All the Names), a bit of Dash Hammett and in the acknowledgments Berry gives a shout out to William Weaver—the main translator of Calvino and Eco . Berry combines the noir aesthetic and the confused loneliness of someone like Joseph K. into a mystery novel that’s addictively mysterious and thoroughly satisfying.
What Would Horatio Alger Do?
Way back in the day I took part in Galley Cat’s “World’s Longest Literary Remix Contest.” The project took “Joe’s Luck: Always Wide Awake" by Horatio Alger and "remixed" it into a variety of different literary styles.
The rules were simple: 1. Those who signed up (there are about 150 of us) were given a page of the Alger novel. 2. We re-wrote it in a new style (pulp fiction, soap opera, western, Petrarchan Sonnet, etc.). 3. In the end we created a “new” work that has the same plot but presents it in a bizarre and likely hilarious new way.
This “Star Wars" remix was the inspiration for this all (the trailer looks amazing).
Here’s the finished project. I’m on page 161.
Participating in this project got me thinking about the myth of the self-made American and what that looks like today.