I really liked this one! It’s about a young woman who’s transgender who works at The Strand and hates her job and has a shitty relationship with her girlfriend, and then her life completely falls apart. The first part is set in NYC, sometime between 2007 and 2009. (I’m basing this chronology on: when the subway cost $2, when Trader Joe’s opened in NYC, and when that Miranda Lambert song about killing an ex-boyfriend came out.) I really identified initially with the main character, Maria. Everything she had to say (about Brooklyn, how fun it is to ride over the Williamsburg Bridge, the Kellog Diner, having a vestigial punk rock code of ethics that’s a little bit arbitrary) was so well-described and hilarious and right on the money. She would sketch out what everything is about, and then cut right to the heart of the matter in a few curse-laden sentences. It made me really trust everything else Maria said on other topics. Also, Maria is an extremely dissociative character who’s totally checked out most of the time, which I think must be really hard to write, and yet she was extremely sympathetic and I was completely carried along by her narrative. Each chapter was very short and seemed like it could stand on its own, and I was wondering if the book had started out as a series of short vignettes.
[Mild spoilers ahead, don’t read on if you need to be in a perpetual state of surprise about everything.] Basically everything swirls down the toilet for Maria, and I found myself losing patience with her when she asked to borrow the girlfriend Steph’s car for the day, but planning to take it for at least a week. Then there was a brief segment from Steph’s POV, and we learn that Steph knows full well that Maria is going to hijack her car for a long time, and it’s very sad and poignant. Then a new character, James, was introduced. At first I wasn’t too into him, because I missed reading about Maria and because he just seemed like this dumb guy who does nothing but smoke pot and masturbate all the time. But there was more to him than that and I warmed up to him.
I enjoyed the NYC half of the book more than the Nevada half and I wonder if that was simply because of hometown chauvinism. Or some other -ism—-is there a word for thinking that NYC and its denizens are just inherently more interesting than the rest of the country and its people? But everyone I’ve ever met seems to think this too, not just me, particularly people who are from the rest of the country. Even I can see the logical fallacy here. It’s ridiculous, I don’t even live in NYC anymore. I’m willing to try to be a better person on this issue, but only if I really have to. Maybe my problem was just that James lives in the most depressing place on earth and so it was impossible to enjoy reading about it. Anyway—-what I did like a lot about the Nevada section of the book was that it made me think a lot about gender and other topics. Don’t worry, I won’t tell you what my thoughts were. You should just read this delightful book and then you can think your own thoughts.
If you are looking for a book with a happy ending where the storyline wraps up neatly and makes you believe that humans can really communicate with each other and help each other, then wait until another day to pick up Nevada. Read this book on the day when you want something that’s so real and intense and and passionate that of course there can be no closure.
This novel had some smutty bits which were great, including the first chapter. Talk about a book grabbing you by the throat in its opening pages! Unfortunately I’m too inhibited to describe these opening pages, but there was a specific thing on page two that I don’t know if that could really work or. . . ? Okay, my friends, please read this book and then we can sit down and discuss it IRL.
What other book did it remind me of? Another Country by James Baldwin a little bit, but actually I read that almost fifteen years ago so I probably have no idea what I’m talking about.
OK, a new feature to my reviews: theme song for this book, an idea I am ripping off from novelsounds.net. Either I Was A Teenage Anarchist by Against Me or I Am A Poseur by X-Ray Spex.
The part that no one is interested in but me: book design. It was super gorgeous, inside and out! The cover and interior were outstanding. Also I only saw 3 spelling mistakes, so totally average there. It was the most attractive book from a small press that I’ve ever seen. I thought, wow, mysterious Topside Press, where have you been all my life? I looked it up and learned: “Topside Press, founded in 2011, is a new independent press with the intent of publishing authentic transgender narratives.” I bought this book probably at the Rainbow Book Fair but possibly at the Bureau of General Services-Queer Division. However I got it, it came with a pink piece of paper that claimed Topside Press loved me and asking me to do up to twelve helpful things for Imogen Binnie such as create visual art about the book and post it on social networking. I thought that was really neat and it makes lots of sense for a small press to harness the DIY creativity of its readers. (However, I am unlikely to create a visual art piece about Nevada. Sozzers.)
In conclusion, I hope Imogen Binnie is hard at work on a new book. Write faster!