So Far

JG Ballard, Kingdom Come (UK 2006)

It’s all on the surface in Ballard’s final novel, a story set in the shadow of a massive shopping mall in the suburbs of London. Ballard, whose reputation as a chronicler of dystopian modernity was affirmed by David Cronenberg’s 1996 cult-film adaptation of Crash, explores the connections between consumerism and “soft fascism.”

Blind hunger for shallow pleasures, meaningless violence, conformity, and nativism: Kingdom Comer represents a world where the pathologies of capitalist culture stem from the commodity form. Ballard hangs his sociological insights on a reliable narrative of mystery and conspiracy. The son of an elderly man killed in a mass shooting lingers at the scene of the crime, the Metro-Centre, in an effort to discover who was responsible for his father’s death. His investigation brings him into contact with quasi-fascist sports clubs, roaming gangs of middle-class racists, and a vacuous celebrity-fuehrer.

Davide Longo, The Last Man Standing (Italy 2008)

Slow to start but relentless, this vision of social collapse can be difficult to read because of the depravity of some of its characters. On the other hand, a qualified optimism suggests to the reader that the demise of institutions doesn’t necessarily mean the end of community.

Jens Lapidus, Never Fuck Up (Sweden 2008)

Lapidus’s second novel, like his first (Easy Money) a virtual stylistic clone of James Ellroy’s crime stories, is set in a multi-cultural, divided Stockholm where “Yugo” crime bosses and Iraqi dope-slingers mix with privileged “Svens” and rogue cops. Like Ellroy, Lapidus hovers at the cusp of parody; at certain points the narrative is so hard-boiled it risks petrefaction. Still, this is the literary equivalent of watching a crime film, immersive and vivid.

Thierry Jonquet, Mygale (France 1984)

A bizarre and disturbing novella about a twisted plastic surgeon, his beautiful victim, and a naive yet brutal cop-killer. Existentialist themes of identity and vengeance hint at the possibility of an allegorical dimension, though unlike Jean-Patrick Manchette, Jonquet seems unwilling to fully politicize his story.

Maurizio Ascari, A Counter-History of Crime Fiction: Supernatural, Gothic, Sensation (UK 2007)

A great piece of scholarship on crime fiction, one that contradicts standard accounts of the genre which locate its inceptions in Poe’s “tales of ratiocination.” Highly recommended.

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