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Hard Feelings: A Novel by Jason Starr

Hard Feelings: A Novel

by Jason Starr

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My first Jason Starr. I'm reading this novel in tandem with "Light's Out" and I sense a running theme.

I'm always a sucker for novels with amoral characters, or unsatisfying endings. This one has plenty of that. Richard Segal looks like a normal guy in every sense of the word. He doesn’t manifest any overt psychological abnormalities if his life. At the beginning everything is running smoothly, but when problems arose, he reverted to his primal state of psychopathology.

Starr likes to draw his characters from everyday life, make everything seem pretty normal. And then he punches you in the stomach... He pushes his story lines and his characters to extremes, and takes it from there.

Character-driven fiction that starts bad and gets worse, but not necessarily with a dark, relentless tone. I don’t need to like the characters I’m reading about, but I need to understand them. That's fully on display here. I like reading about fucked-up characters...

He was able to capture the perverse pleasures, edgy excitement and dark humour of what I see as twenty-first century noir. I've been into 21st-century noir fiction lately, and I was told in vigorous terms that I should start reading Jason Starr. The vigour and diversity of recent literary noir are difficult to convey in a brief review. That's also not the point here. What's definitely the point here is that Jason Starr is worth keeping an eye on.

One of Starr’s strong points is his ability to make uncompromising pulp traditionalism seem both radical and fresh. More than most authors, Jason Starr uses the workplace as a setting to fuel tensions (vide Richard Segal's interactions with his boss Bob).

What definitely won me over was the abrupt ending. What a stunt. Fitting as hell.
" ( )
1 vote antao | Dec 10, 2016 |
I happened to see this on the shelf at the library as I was looking at what they had by Dan Simmons. I read the back and saw that he was compared to Jim Thompson. "We'll see about that," I thought, skeptically. The book passed my first page test, so I checked it out with relatively low expectations.

Wow. This is simply a magnificent book that really challenges the line drawn between "literature" and crime fiction.

Fans of Thompson, Bukowski, Fante, and many of the other writers I enjoy (see a list here) should really take note of this. The lead character has that outsider's view on things, despises douche-baggy frat-boy types, and generally has a cynical outlook. We find out what happens when a guy like that recalls blocked memories of being molested as a kid by running into his molester on the street.

Starr really takes the time to establish his characters--ultimately this novel has such a strong pull because of the insights Starr provides into what drives these people. The plot, here, is extremely interesting, but as a thriller the book is far less about unfurling some tinkertoy plot than finding out WHAT HAPPENS TO THIS GUY.

You just don't tend to find this kind insightful, honest writing in combination with interesting stories. I will have to hold myself back now from going on a Starr binge. Magnificent. ( )
1 vote trivigo | Aug 2, 2010 |
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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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