Random Acts of Senseless Violence (Jack Womack)
26 May 2021
It's just a little later than now and Lola Hart is writing her life in a diary. She's a nice middle-class girl on the verge of her teens who schools at the calm end of town.
A normal, happy, girl.
But in a disintegrating New York she is a dying breed. War is breaking out on Long Island, the army boys are flamethrowing the streets, five Presidents have been assassinated in a year. No one notices any more. Soon Lola and her family must move over to the Lower East side - Loisaida - to the Pit and the new language of violence of the streets.
The metamorphosis of the nice Lola Hart into the new model Lola has begun ...
Sinclair Manson (28 May 2021 18:51)
The message of this novel is that random acts of senseless violence are not random or senseless. It demonstrates this by taking a 12 year old girl from a nice, middle class family and relentlessly brutalising her until she becomes a monster. It is one of the most depressing books I've ever read. From the very start, it's obvious that Lola's family have had their happiest day and that every turn of the page is going to make things worse. I immediately had the urge to stop reading and that didn't go away until I'd finished the book.
The story is very well written. The gradual transformation of Lola's language was particularly striking. The book's message is executed with clarity and ruthlessness. It's maybe too unrelenting for its own good, more a howl of rage than a winning argument. I suspect the people who would benefit from this book's perspective and the people who would choose to read it are two different groups.
The other obvious difficulty with this book, from the perspective of the 2020s, is the relationship of the author to the material. It's hard to imagine a white, male author now crossing lines of race, gender, sexuality and class the way Womack does. It's interesting that what could be seen as overcoming exciting challenges in the 1990s could be taken as paternalism or even colonialism now. It's also interesting that it's harder to treat a book that recent as an artefact of another era, especially when the setting is so close to contemporary.
Altogether this is a very challenging book and it's hard to rate it on a simple scale between bad and amazing.
Sean Aaron (28 May 2021 01:36)
No, no, no!