Sunday, January 16, 2011
Saturday's Best Book Diary: Alan Glynn's WINTERLAND: A NOVEL
Dustjacket: Of course, I say Winterland instead of WinteЯland, the way it appears in the title on the dustjacket of the first American edition. I especially like the picture on this edition of the novel, the high cranes looming over the garden wall, the garden in the near-ground bearing the implications of mythical Eden.
The dustjacket gives credit for the photo to Maria Buckley (credit for the design goes to David Rutstein and Keith Hayes), and apparently Buckley's Flicker page is at this link. I've had this novel for some time, marked as a winter read for January due to its title, but the winterland in here is the name of a corporate entity, the name meant to resonate with its cold, calculated materialism and with the generally dismal atmosphere that corporate globalism has fostered.
The opening line of the prologue is: "How has it come to this?" On down the first page the desolate "this" is described as "the eerie and soulless feel of a virtual environment."
The opening line of the first chapter is: "He is sitting in what they now call the beer garden."
The nice choice of a dustjacket here resonates with the garden part of beer garden. The beer resonates with human addictions--to alcohol, yes, but also to money, power, drugs, guns, and lots of other things. Addictions "Я" us.
On the surface level, the book works wonderfully both as a thriller and as an indictment of the way corporate power works to manipulate government and law enforcement. The pacing is very deliberate, but in this novel, that's a good thing. It unfolds piece by piece, cause then effect.
The first chapter: The first Noel, bystanders did say, was a mean, fat, rotten piece of slime. Still, he was a child of God in the Cormac McCarthy sense. We see this Noel bullying an old man by the name of Christy. A hit man in a ski mask appears suddenly and guns Noel down, then quickly escapes over the beer garden wall. It turns out that, beyond this one scene, Christy is not a character in the novel at all; so we might wonder, what is his purpose in the novel?
Seems to me, Christy appears as an everyman christ--certainly not as Christ, but only in the everyman small letter sense. In this novel, to the right eyes, everyman's a christ, everyman's the third Noel. Existence with the foreknowledge of certain death is the cross we bear. Though I doubt that many readers will see it that way.
The main protagonist is Gina, related to both murdered Noels, a good modern woman with plenty of true grit and a desire to solve the mysteries in here. But will she let the cycle of revenge consume her, or will she wise up and step out of the destructive pattern she is in?
That's the question suggested by the prologue, though I prefer the way it is presented in a small paragraph later in the novel:
"It is only now that Gina is beginning to see how she herself is one of these others, how Norton is like a virus she has contracted, or a toxic substance in her system she may never be able to eliminate. With each step, it becomes a little clearer. . .how he has influenced her behavior, twisted her emotions, choked her sense of who she is. . .how he has turned her into this crazy lady, the mad bitch who can't be stopped."
Norton, mentioned above, is but another child of God, another junky, living in denial but addicted to money and power and wanting to control Death.
By this time, we know that the backwards "R" standing out on the dustjacket must stand for the returning cycle of revenge, and we're hoping that Gina can turn it around before it's too late.
I'm giving this novel five stars at Amazon. Highly recommended.