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Hard Feelings: A Novel
by Jason Starr
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0375727094, Paperback)Penzler Pick, March 2002: Perverse as she was, I think Patricia Highsmith would approve. With his fourth novel, Jason Starr stakes his claim on the claustrophobic territory that she carved out so brilliantly for the four decades of her writing career. And the people at Vintage/Black Lizard, the publishers of Hard Feelings as their first-ever original paperback--who have a number of Highsmith titles on their classic-noir list--know it. They are also invoking the name of another darkly unsettling and equally legendary American writer. The editor-in-chief of Black Lizard, Edward Kastenmeier, says, "Reading Hard Feelings was like the first time I read The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson: eerie, disturbing and blackly comic."
Richie Segal, the increasingly strung-out narrator of Hard Feelings, is a yuppie New Yorker with a co-op in an East Side high-rise, an executive wife who's just received a promotion, and credit card bills to the tune of $20,000. He's failing at his job--selling computer networks to midsized companies--and has just seen on the street, out of the blue, a man who was his neighbor when they were teenagers. There's something painful about this fellow, Michael Rudnick, now a successful lawyer, that Richie has suppressed for more than two decades. And now that he has begun to remember it, the awful unfairness of their shared shadow history begins to pervade his life, haunting his waking hours... and his dreams.
Hard Feelings does a nearly faultless job of building tension and following Richie's descent into a world that resembles the one in which he has previously lived, in the same way a grimace resembles a grin. Fans of Donald E. Westlake's The Ax and Scott Phillips's The Ice Harvest will love it. It may also be the first "take-out" noir novel, since in typical New York fashion, Richie and Paula, his wife, possess a stack of menus rather than a batterie de cuisine. You can almost taste the chicken chow fun, the boxed pizza, the sushi-to-go, and other bicycled-over delicacies.
The ending may be a too-convenient cutting away from even the slightest glimpse of a crucial moment in Richie's final deterioration. Others may disagree. But, ultimately, this minor lapse doesn't keep it from being a terrific--and terrifying--book. --Otto Penzler
(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:09:16 -0400)
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