peteg's blog

Dennis Lehane: World Gone By

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Kindle. Chowed across another two soggy days in Mũi Né. I was surprised to find that this is the first book I've read by Lehane, given how many of his works have been adapted into movies (even good ones). I ended up thinking of this story as an exploration of Robert Duvall's secondary character (Tom Hagen) from The Godfather: a consigliere of the wrong race, who dirties his hands with some of Michael Corleone's street smarts and family issues. Perhaps that was lazy on my part, but I felt it took very little imagination to read; I'm getting the impression that Lehane writes scripts and calls them novels. It is nowhere as funny, and far more patronising, than the book I just finished by Paul Beatty. The prose is flat, the similes and metaphors are tired, the humour is not very funny, and audience is presumed vapid.

To be blunt, everything here is reycled from the glory days of organized American crime and story telling, and often only lightly fictionalized. (Wikipedia has about as much speculation and innuendo as this book does, but no horse in the prurient deviant sexuality stakes.) The World War II backdrop (the Nazis forever the gift that gives to America's creatives); Batista's Cuba; the son Tomas wanting to be a U.S. solider, just like Michael, despite his father's argument that he's part Cuban and his country hasn't done a thing for him; the "you're not killing my child" histrionics, but with an immediate backdown; some get-on-the-plane dialogue, just like Casablanca and not Predator; tedious racism. You get the idea. There is some massively unsound reasoning about the existence of God (that doesn't even make for good rhetoric) and an attempt to co-opt alcohol fetishism ala Fleming's Bond.

Janet Maslin saw something in this that I didn't. Or perhaps it was the other way around.