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Garth Risk Hallberg

Author of City on Fire

4+ Works 1,388 Members 59 Reviews 1 Favorited

About the Author

Garth Risk Hallberg was born in Louisiana and grew up in North Carolina. His writing has appeared in Prairie Schooner, The New York Times, Best New American Voices, and, most frequently, The Millions. His novella, A Field Guide to the North American Family, was published in 2007. (Bowker Author show more Biography) show less

Works by Garth Risk Hallberg

Associated Works

Lucky Per (1904) — Introduction, some editions — 202 copies
Granta 139: Best of Young American Novelists (2017) — Contributor — 71 copies
The Late American Novel: Writers on the Future of Books (2011) — Contributor — 64 copies


Common Knowledge



I finally tackled this book, which has been on my Nook since the beginning of the year. It's huge, although I hardly ever find that daunting. I read the entire Outlander series in less than three weeks during a time I was very busy at work and doing a lot of long hours, and each book was of epic length. Same with the Song of Ice and Fire (Game of Thrones) series. The story mainly took place in 1976-1977, mainly in New York City (where I worked) and Long Island (where I lived and had grown up), so much of it was familiar, perhaps even more so because I got married in February 1977 and was just beginning my grown up life. Certainly the blackout of 1977, which I observed from a strange place (our apartment was in Nassau County, so unaffected by Con Ed's failure, but through a quirk of post-WWII building, the houses had been moved to make way for the Cross Island Parkway and our little three-block island of power sat surrounded by darkness that hot July evening in the Summer of Sam. Certainly the decrepitation of New York City -- I worked way downtown on Water Street. Certainly the growing restlessness of the masses in post-Nixon, post-Vietnam America. The gas shortage. The financial crises. Gay activism. The birth of punk and disco, neither of which strummed my soul, although I would later come to be appreciate some punk music. So much of the setting was familiar and well set by Hallberg. But. He seemed to be channeling Tom Wolfe at his most pretentious. I kept thinking of "Bonfire of the Vanities" as I read (which I did like, despite its pretention), feeling as if a lot of this was written with Roget's at Hallberg's elbow to find those big words that could easily have been left simpler. I also felt he was trying to be David Foster Wallace, whose "Infinite Jest" I have started reading three or four times, but seem to give up around the same place. I usually read books in an two or three evenings, and even large ambitious ones like this in three or four days at the most, particularly when I start on a weekend, but it took me seven because I lost patience a few times. I often find the device of switching between past, present, and future jarring, not in a good way. And in having so many characters, I did not find any one of them particularly well developed, although there was a good sense of a few of them (not the female characters, sadly). On the other hand, I did want to learn how the story ended: What would become of of Samantha; Charlie; Billy/William; Regan & Keith and their progeny; the Demon Brother (he was one of the poorly developed characters, in my opinion, but maybe his spectral presence was deliberate); Felicia (almost unknowable). Pulaski (somewhat well drawn). And there are too many neat coincidences and convoluted intersections. To me, the book fell short of the hype, but Hallberg can tell a story and his writing had moments of brilliance -- a well-turned phrase or two or three -- and it was therefore a decent first novel of a writer who I will watch.… (more)
bschweiger | 56 other reviews | Feb 4, 2024 |
This was just way too long. 900 pages??? It was just interesting enough for me to keep going, but it was a death march at the end. This will probably make a great movie if they get some good actors and I picture a Altmanesque treatment of all the conjoined characters/stories. Not terrible and has some wonderful parts but ultimately it was a slog.
RachelGMB | 56 other reviews | Dec 27, 2023 |
I wanted to really love this book. I was waiting in anticipation to read and was jazzed when I started it. Being a native New Yorker (still here), I thought this would be the quintessential book about NYC. A book that captures the essence and energy of NY. Alas, not the case.

There is no way I can review a book of such density and to it justice. Suffice to say, the author can certainly write, no question about that. But the book comes in at 903 pages and could have easily been edited back to 650-700 pages. He goes on and on about things that are truly not relevant to the story in anyway. He also uses language so he can prove to all of us that he knows big words and acronyms for more commonly used words.

I started losing interest around page 300 and by page 435 I was done. I hacked thru the book, but like a bad movie, I kept asking "when is this going to end?" If you are into Jonathan Franzen and David Foster Wallace, then you will LOVE this book. They to go on and on and on and include huge passages that have no bearing on the story. More power to those who love books like that. For me, if the story was more compelling, I would have enjoyed this much, much more.
… (more)
BenM2023 | 56 other reviews | Nov 22, 2023 |
I've read my share of really long books throughout the years and I often feel somewhat saddened when I've finished them because I know I will miss the characters. Not the case with this book, although it was a powerful story with some really strong characters, this book would have benefited with some major editing.
kevinkevbo | 56 other reviews | Jul 14, 2023 |



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