Poet and novelist Warsh (A Free Man) braids together multiple perspectives with a surgeon's dexterity throughout six brilliantly deconstructed, high action stories. In the opener, "The Russians," Warsh's razor sharp attention to detail creates a startling sense of intimacy with the characters: Irene is brutally raped and murdered while her friend Marina is bound to a chair. Portraits of the women as lovers in Russia emerge in tandem with the conflicted erotic relationship that develops between Marina and the detective who rescues her. Another highlight is the titular story, "A Place in the Sun," which brings iconic figures of Hollywood's golden years into stark contrast with their respective legends. Elizabeth Taylor falls in love with Monty Clift when they star together in the film of the title. Despite his drug addiction, Monty takes his profession very seriously while Liz's naïve vanity will not allow her to fathom that any man could reject her, or that Monty could be interested in others-men included. Warsh's sense of immediacy adds power to a book in which the storylines and the clean precise prose are equally riveting.
In weaving together the cold, explicit facts, gossipy rumors and largely sexual fantasies of the lives of Clift, Taylor, and Drieser, Lewis Warsh creates a tripartite threnody of its own genuine American tragedy, the off-screen, off-page dark truths hidden beneath the drab, glittering surface crust of American life. William Carlos Williams wrote in “To Elsie”: “The pure products of America go crazy....” Warsh has captured that in mimicking a sensationalized tabloid voice of a 1950s Confidential mag’s hot, breathless prose, and taking a transcendent leap from that gossip and rumor into one of the “great poems of death” Walt Whitman exhorted American poets to write.
A deeply engrossing book, I couldn’t put it down. And now that I’ve finished reading it, I can’t put it away, for how it furthers my thinking of the genre itself. A Place In The Sun beautifully combines the high action and salaciousness of page-turners, with the self-reflection and risk-taking of post-modern fiction. It’s a must-read and a must-study.
Lewis Warsh brings his poet’s sensibility to a mash up of literary and genre fiction techniques—including constantly shifting perspectives and unexpected interconnections—to create an intriguingly compelling and deeply satisfying reading experience. I loved it.
A Place in the Sun is a beautifully rendered and expertly deconstructed novel. Warsh’s stunningly effective use of multiple narratives, provided in exquisitely detailed lines, conveys an elastic and powerful emotional honesty. This is a sensual and desperate story from a writer with formidable powers of invention.
Lewis Warsh is the author of numerous books of poetry, fiction and autobiography, including The Origin of the World, Touch of the Whip, A Free Man, Avenue of Escape and Ted’s Favorite Skirt. He is the coeditor of The Angel Hair Anthology, editor and publisher of United Artists Books, and director of the MFA program in creative writing at Long Island University in Brooklyn. Inseparable: Poems 1995-2005, was published by Granary Books in 2008.
Pamela Lawton’s recent solo exhibitions include a painting installation at 180 Maiden Lane, NYC, and a one-person show at the Conde Nast building, NYC, in October of 2009. Other solo shows include the Galeria Nacional in Costa Rica; White Box Gallery’s project space, NYC; and Galeria Isabel Ignacio, Spain. She is currently on the faculty of the New School, and is the founding director of Making Art Everywhere, a non-profit organization that has worked in Afghanistan, Sri Lanka, and Mississippi. More of her work can be seen at www.pamelalawton.com.