Thursday, January 04, 2007

Crap on toast

For some unfathomable reason, there seems to be some kind of buzz around Marcus Sakey and his debut novel, The Blade Itself. First a positive blurb and an interview in PW, now a fairly encouraging review from Janet Maslin in the Times. I know, I know—Maslin's taste is incomprehensible. But how could even she get hoodwinked by such a pathetic thriller? Actually, the word "thriller" should come in quotation marks whenever used in conjunction with The Blade Itself, a book in which each plot turn is so clumsily phoned in that any reader with half a brain will be able to skip a few pages and not miss a thing.

As for style, every other sentence drips with the kind of affected toughness that contaminates the worst noirs. Sakey has obviously read his elders and betters, but he hasn't absorbed what it is that makes them good—moral ambiguity—and only regurgitates chunks of ultra-pasteurized clich├ęs; it boggles the mind that he could be mentioned in the same breath as James Ellroy or even the overrated Dennis Lehane (has anybody praising him actually read his preposterous Shutter Island, from 2003?).

But perhaps it's Sakey's reading of his peers that's the problem. As he says on his website, "Mostly I read crime and lit-fic, but every now and then you gotta branch out" (this in regard to Philip Pullman's wonderful The Golden Compass). Well duh! No wonder Sakey's novel feels so limited: It draws not from life or fiction in general, but from a narrow sliver of fiction. As Gordon Ramsay would put it: Oh for fuck sake!

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