Thursday, August 13, 2009

Ian Mackenzie's novel City of Strangers

City of Strangers by Ian Mackenzie
Penguin, 2009

Can a novel be sustained without an unusual event? Individuality is channeled into different areas, into writing and business, in the fiction City of Strangers, which is set in a New York of both elegance and squalor; and the novel focuses on a writer who is asked to write a book about his father, who was decades ago a Nazi sympathizer, in a post 9/11 world of resurgent racism. The writer, Paul, is newly divorced and has a financial world success of a brother facing corruption questions. The novel City of Strangers, with its depicted street tensions, restaurants, museums, and the rest of it, is written with a language of attention and detail, of breath and muscle, of desire and fear and anger, argument and confession. The central character is a man, Paul, who clings to relationships and emotions that others want to leave behind. Violence enters Paul’s life as we all fear, and he is pushed to defend himself smartly, viciously. What occurs is unusual—and challenges expectation, if not belief.