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City on Fire: A novel by Garth Risk Hallberg
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City on Fire: A novel (edition 2015)

by Garth Risk Hallberg (Author)

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9514314,354 (3.47)40
The all-too-human individuals who live within this extraordinary first novel are: Regan and William Hamilton-Sweeney, estranged heirs to one of the city's biggest fortunes; Keith and Mercer, the men who, for better or worse, love them; Charlie and Sam, two Long Island teenagers seduced by downtown's nascent punk scene; an obsessive magazine reporter; his spunky, West Coast-transplant neighbor; and the detective trying to figure out what they all have to do with a shooting in Central Park. From post-Vietnam youth culture to the fiscal crisis, from a lushly appointed townhouse on Sutton Place to a derelict squat on East 3rd Street, this city on fire is at once recognizable and completely unexpected. And when the infamous blackout of July 13th, 1977 plunges it into darkness, each of these entangled lives will be changed, irrevocably.… (more)
Member:robzand
Title:City on Fire: A novel
Authors:Garth Risk Hallberg (Author)
Info:Knopf (2015), Edition: First, 944 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:None

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City on Fire by Garth Risk Hallberg

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» See also 40 mentions

English (41)  Italian (2)  All languages (43)
Showing 1-5 of 41 (next | show all)
Pretty compelling, and easy to read, but not all that interesting and a bit grim so far. Feels a bit like one of those highly-regarded American TV dramas. I'm giving it up mostly because it's more of a disquieting murder-mystery than I expected or want. (I'm making a point of marking it as abandoned because I think I might end up finishing it by default otherwise.)
  matt_ar | Dec 6, 2019 |
No editorial discipline. Long and tedious. Almost stopped 1/3 of the way in and wish I had. ( )
  Mark.Kosminskas | May 11, 2019 |
Hugely ambitious, huge book. It may even be too much book. If he'd cut it by a third he might have found a wider audience. Still, at its best, it feels like a Bonfire of the Vanities for the Twenty Teens from the Nineteen Seventies. Outmoded even before it was published, sprawling and unfocused, this is a work that will be less read than it deserves but relished by most that bother. ( )
  asxz | Mar 13, 2019 |
When you were young, you had the resources to rebuild after each crater fate blasted in your life. Beyond a certain age, though, you could only wall off the damage and leave it there.


A conceptual art project is described in the final pages of the novel depicting an inscription which requires ten days to complete followed by ten days of effacement. I felt something akin in this climb, this particular reading. Much of what needed to be said was accomplished in the novel's first half. The plateau before the descent didn't yield much satisfaction, nor a fog of uncertainty. It was lukewarm,. Music from another room. I was left, pondering. reflecting on the joy of listening to the Red Garland Trio while carving a watermelon--for other people. I don't care for melon.

This is a busy novel, though, frankly-- it lacks in ideas. It isn't heady. An ensemble of characters delineate NYC in that fecund period of 1976-77. The echoes of the pyrotechnics of the Bicentennial find physical manifestation in the arrival of AIDS. Punks chords of dissent turn blight into renewal. Everyone will be rich, except for the poor.
Fuck the poor.
Charles Bronson.
Bernie Goetz.
Do the Right Thing.

As noted this is more Balzac than even a Franzen. At the core is a crime, much like Bleak House and the clues to such are disparate. Many of them are revealed in the "found" text but City on Fire (a line in punk song) lacks the ominous detachment which make a W.G. Sebald or a Teju Cole so unsettling. I wish I could praise this, call it a punk Naked Singularity---but that comparison is ludicrous. This is a fat novel for the vicarious. It is timid fare. A reference to Marcuse doesn't leave the novel steeped in the Frankfurt School. City on Fire does however make one want to listen to Patti Smith--I do thank the author for that. ( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
First book of the year, finally finished! At over 900 pages, it was a real undertaking, even though it was consistently an interesting and thoughtful novel. It continues the current-seeming style of rotating narrators, which can be a real hit or miss situation. About 75% of the characters who were the focus of the chapters were great and engaging, which is actually a pretty high rate.

There's a lot going on in this book, and though I never shook the feeling that it took on too much narratively, it certainly painted a vivid and graphic portrait of New York in the mid 1970s. I wanted everything to come together just a little more cleanly, but all in all I really enjoyed this book, despite the fact by page 750 I was yearning for the end to come a little quicker. ( )
  Katie_Roscher | Jan 18, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 41 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Garth Risk Hallbergprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bragg, BillCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Elise, who believes
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In New York, you can get anything delivered.
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New York City, 1976. Meet Regan and William Hamilton-Sweeney, estranged heirs to one of the city’s great fortunes; Keith and Mercer, the men who, for better or worse, love them; Charlie and Samantha, two suburban teenagers seduced by downtown’s punk scene; an obsessive magazine reporter and his idealistic neighbor—and the detective trying to figure out what any of them have to do with a shooting in Central Park on New Year’s Eve.

The mystery, as it reverberates through families, friendships, and the corridors of power, will open up even the loneliest-seeming corners of the crowded city. And when the blackout of July 13, 1977, plunges this world into darkness, each of these lives will be changed forever.
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