Sunday, January 02, 2011

Jason Starr's Tough Luck

As I said in an earlier post, I was going to write about Jason Starr's Tough Luck. As you probably know by now, I'm a stout admirer of Starr's work. He writes in deceptively simple sentences, but creates the looming atmosphere or paranoia, loneliness and utter despair in just a few lines. The greatest examples of his work are, I think, still two of his earlier novels, Fake I.D. (coming in Finnish under the title Väärä rooli, with a great cover by Ossi Hiekkala) and Nothing Personal. I hadn't read Tough Luck for some reason, but it's almost as good as those two books. Well, it could easily be just as good as them.

Tough Luck is not about a sociopath, like Fake I.D. or Nothing Personal are; the main characther, Michael, is a basically normal young guy (barely in his twenties), who's just had a bad luck all his life: his mother has died, his father is suffering from Altzheimer and was an asshole to begin with, his few friends are losers and bullies, his future is totally unclear, he's working at a fish store and he smells like fish all the time. His demise starts with a Mob guy coming in to the fish store and asking Michael to place some sports bets for him. The Mob guy loses every time, but he just won't pay and Michael has to dig out the money himself. So go his savings and probably his studentship at the college. And then comes Rhonda, the woman of Michael's dreams.

Starr doesn't write your basic noir thrillers. Rhonda is no utter babe with big boobs and a vicious attitude, and there are almost no guns in sight, except in two crucial, but pretty short scenes. There's actually very little violence in Tough Luck and the relieving humour is largely absent. Starr also makes no knowing winces to the noir aficionados. Yet there's always the feeling for the underdog, the depressed, those hungry for love and acceptance, which they, in Starr's world, will never get. The last lines in Tough Luck, after everything's seemingly alright again, are a tour de force of ambiguity. We just know Michael didn't lear anything from his troubles, but we sympathize and empathize with him just because of that.

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