Mystery Girl by David Gordon (New Harvest, 2013)
Mystery Girl by David Gordon is a book that made me angry. Why? Because it had to end. Honestly, I couldn’t put it down. It’s that good. Very seldom do I want a novel to just keep going on and on and not finish. Gordon’s book, which is his second published novel, is an outstanding success. I found out about it by reading the blog of another extraordinary writer, Anthony Neil Smith, who gave it a full recommendation. You see: this is why the Internet was invented, so the world could readily access such talent.
Sam Kornberg is having a very bad run of luck. His wife Lala has just dumped him, the book store where he used to work has closed, and the video store where he hangs out is going down in flames. But worst of all, Sam has real doubts about his choice of profession: novelist. And not just any kind of novelist, a non-linear experimental novelist whose books defy plot descriptions. Think: Kafka, William S Burroughs, etc. So what does Sam do? Why, look for a job, of course. And what does he find? An apprenticeship to a detective.
The detective turns out to be Solar Lonsky, a morbidly obese man who lives secluded in a house with his aging mother and house keeper. Solar can’t leave the house as he is suffering from all sorts of psychiatric conditions. But his mind is a powerful analytic machine. He needs Sam to follow around a mysterious young woman and report back to him. Solar is willing to pay lots of money to keep her under surveillance. So Sam takes the job. And from this point the novel roars into the sky and to tell more of the plot would be spoiling the many surprises the book holds for a patient reader.
Most of the book is told from the viewpoint of Sam. But every time a significant character is introduced, you get to hear their story in form of a chapter-long monologue. It’s these moments where the novel really shines. At times it can get a little long, such as the British actor who has seen to much of everything. But the other times, such as the fiery tirade by a femme fatale, it goes on just right.
There’s also constant commentary on film, literature, and the meaning of existence. What might drag another book out turns this one into a real gem. The author has an encyclopedic knowledge of movies and book. Where else are you going to find pages expounding on the significance of The Treasure of Sierrra Madre’s writer? And it all fits into the intricate plot of the book.
Here’s a sample:
“Nothing’s next. It’s over. Turns out the story of literature does have an ending. It’s Facebook and reality TV. It’s video games on cell phones. No one has the attention span to read The Man Without Qualities. No one can sit still and focus hard enough to untangle Finnegan’s Wake or develop the patience to face Gravity’s Rainbow. Who will ever open those books again? The late great novelists. It makes sense in retrospect. They were recording the death of their own art form. As a medium disappears, there’s always a final explosion of virtuosity. A kind of decadent, baroque eruption of style that no longer has any object or audience but itself. A last flower. So even if I didn’t just completely suck, I was still born with a useless ability, like archery or taking shorthand. So it doesn’t matter if my books were erased. No one was ever going to read them. It’s like I speak a dying language, Navajo or Yiddish. And the sad truth is: I have a hard time even remembering it myself.”
So download or buy a physical copy of this books as soon as you can. You won’t be disappointed.