Sunday, May 21, 2017
Review: "Carousel Court" by Joe McGinniss Jr.
Even with the narrative cut up between 97 short chapters, which feel like snapshots instead of plot points, Joe McGinniss Jr. second novel Carousel Court is still quite a chore to read. It is filled with people making odd and sometimes questionable decisions in a reality that is a little too heightened and extreme to be taken seriously, let alone link back to the real world in any meaningful way. Which is disappointing because I was really excited about this book: it looked interesting, and the blurb on the back were promising, but besides a few key scenes, which are memorable solely for their aesthetic and not for any emotional depth, this book dragged ass for all of its 351 pages, rarely being coherent or resonant ton the time period it is discussing. It focuses on the lives of the Maguire family, made up of the attractive couple Nick and Phoebe and their young son Jackson on the very edge of the 2008 recession. After an accident that nearly killed Jackson and a move across the country from Boston worked out horribly, they find themselves living in a Los Angeles neighborhood beset by foreclosures, roaming packs of coyotes and neighbors who don’t totally trust one another. Nick cleans out abandoned upscale houses and Phoebe hocks pharmaceuticals to local doctors. Each has a plan of escape, but each is destructive in nature and leads both of them to a spiritual reckoning. The comparison made on the back flap is apt: it reads like Revolutionary Road through the lens of Joan Didion’s Play It As It Lays, a book I like and a book I really don’t. It takes what should have been a knockout and lets it loose in an emotional vacuum. Some key scenes, like a shocking suicide early on and the grim arc of an abandoned dog stick with me, but not for the reasons this sloppy book had intended.