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237 pages, Hardcover
First published February 22, 2018
“ I’m interested in films and jazz. Cities.’
‘Yes. American cities.’
‘What about American cities?’
‘How they fail.’ ”
“We won the war, but we’re living like we lost it.” (*)
“ ‘You had a girl back home, in Nova Scotia. You gonna see her again?’
Walker took a long pull on his bottle, tapped out another cigarette, lit it, drew in deeply; blew. ‘I can’t, Billy. The island. My family. Annie. It’s all gone now.’ He stared hard at the floor. ‘I can’t let her see me. What I’ve become.’ ”
“ He could not call her back to his life: which is a horror, which is the dead calf in the bank-head field, a black flap bubbling with maggots, ugly and wrong. ”
“ This is not the worst. The worst is the hall of mirrors where you catch sight of yourself, twisted, swollen, unrecognizable. (...) It’s the worst thing in the world, catching sight of yourself. ”
“And then he felt a presence behind him. Turning round, he saw the city, stretching out below.”
“Building and demolition seem to happen here within the span of a human life – so citizens can either watch their own mortal decline, or see themselves outliving their cities.”
“The city is constantly changing, blocks being bought and sold, demolished and rebuilt, so it has no memory: it knows only this timeless present.”
“(...) one slash opened the black guy’s buttock like a plum, then this neat stab to the throat and with it a twisting rope so hot it steamed as it splashed on the cobbles; the blood that ran out of him till he ran out of blood.”
“ ‘McCarthyism is fascism. Exactly the same. Propaganda and lies, opening divisions, fueling fear, paranoia. Just like the thirties: a state of emergency, followed by fascism, followed by war. You’ve just defeated Hitler. Can’t anyone see you’ve made another, all of your own?’ ”
“ America has to have its monsters, so we can zone them, segregate them, if possible, shoot them. ”
I wanted to write about an outsider, a Canadian soldier damaged by PTSD, coming to this land of opportunity and finding a country that had won the war but was destroying itself and its people. I was interested in how those years saw the entrenchment of civic corruption and division, and the institutionalisation of the ‘circling the wagons’ philosophy: the deep paranoia about all ‘outsiders’ (including their own black citizens) which has led directly – through McCarthy, the Cold War, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan – to the current administration.The style of the novel drifts from pure poetry to more simply broken prose - what MBI-longlisted The Flying Mountain author Christoph Ransmayr called 'flying lines'.
Sunlight blooms in one window – five – ten – twenty – fifty – and the city was a field of standing light.