Monday, June 27, 2011

Jason Starr: The Pack

As everyone who's been reading this blog for long, I'm a stout admiref of Jason Starr. He writes tough and bleak noir with warmth towards his sociopathic protagonists and antiheroes. He doesn't much revert to mere pastiche of noir clichés and I think he's one of the best examples of how noir can be meaningful literature, both as art and entertainment. It's a small wonder Starr isn't better known.

His later books have gotten more a thriller-like aura, with more pages and bigger issues. There have been talks about big movie adaptations (I seem to have heard about David Fincher buying the option to Panic Attack) and I certainly hope there will be a HUGE movie from his newest novel, The Pack, which I just finished late last night. It's a crime novel like all his earlier novels, but it's also a horror novel. It's also a social satire, in which Starr gets to depict his usual pathetic sociopaths and everyday psychopaths. The middle-class life that Starr writes about is full of anxieties, uncertanties and loneliness. When something bad happens, there's no one out there for you. You're always on your own. Except for a few lunatics, who pray on your bare soul.

In The Pack this theme gets very real, as the protagonist, Simon Burns, ends up in a pack of werewolves. They are very cool guys, seemingly getting along well with their masculinities, taking crap from no one, especially their exes and employees, and Simon, recently fired from his job and spending frustrating life as a stay-home-dad, feels suddenly a burst of new energy. The feeling is misleading, but I'm not telling you more. Starr puts some new twist to the werewolf angle and there's some nice irony in how the werewolf leader combines the utter masculinity and an urge to kill. Jason Starr talks about the theme more in Spinetingler's interview here.

But then again, there's some padding. I can't get away from that. There's too much telling about how someone feels or behaves and about the reasons for that behaviour. Fake ID and Nothing Personal and all the other early novels by Starr have no padding. Is this the price we have to pay to get bigger recognition for a great writer like Jason Starr?

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