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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

To read about movies and TV shows I'm watching, visit my other blog: Elliot's Watching

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

A ruch and untapped vein for literature-noir: Niagara Falls

I've always thought that the Niagara Frontier (love the term) was a rich and untapped vein for literature-noir - especially the city of Niagara Falls (there are a fair # of Buffalo novels and stories, thanks in part to SUNY Buffalo one of my alma materae), and maybe most of all Niagara Falls, Ontario: tacky tourism of run-down b&bs and freak-show museums, the ruined remnants of the honeymoon capital of the world, industrial waste and decay (that's more in NY than Ontario), Canadian insecurity, the odd streets and parks, the rapids, the geographical weirdness, the sense of living on a borderland, the climate - and maybe it's a turf that Craig Davidson can claim, as his story in the Best American Short Stories 2014, Medium Tough, is one of the first maybe the first I've seen to capture a sense of that city. His story concerns a man born into a strangely deformed body, with his right side extremely powerful and his entire left side withered, a genetic mutation caused by fetal alcohol syndrome - the man, Jasmine or Jazz, is a neonatal brain surgeon, that is, he performs probably the most delicate and risky surgery known to medicine, and he's also a serious drug addict; he's a lonely man who gets his kicks from strips joints and quick stands, it seems, and from arm-wrestling competition - so he's a man in two worlds, high-end medicine and dive bars. There's not much plot to the story, mostly it's about character (and to a lesser extent place) set-up, though there is a little twist at the end when Jazz is called in for emergency surgery on a case he probably shouldn't handle (and in a condition in which he shouldn't handle anything) - but it's a small city probably lucky to have one specialist in his area. I have to wonder where Davidson gets all his info about drug cocktails and works - let alone about medicine and brain surgery - but he wears his knowledge well and this story does not feel over-researched (though for Davidson's sake I hope it's all about the research). I can kinda see why editor Jennifer Egan was drawn to this story, as it strikes similar notes to her Goon Squad collection, which arose from her research into the world of the music biz. I hope Davidson will have more to say about this part of the world.

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