Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Beautiful Children by Charles Bock (Random House)

I have a new favorite author and it is Charles Bock. His new work, Beautiful Children, is a tour de force, a novel that is not only literary (in the best sense of the word) but important in its topic matter. Bock writes with a combination of grace and force that each word stands alone; his ability to paint a visual story of present day Las Vegas and its residents is remarkable and signals the debut of a brilliant writer.

Newell, a young boy growing up with the trappings of upper middle class, has disappeared after a night out with Kenny, his much older friend. This story of his disappearance (but not the tale of his discovery) is told via flashbacks of numerous characters - Newell's father, runaways living on the streets of Sin City, a downtrodden comic book artist, a stripper with a heart of gold. Each character is suffering with their own past and a future that seems to be headed nowhere; their lives are filled with the lights of the casinos and the sounds of slot machines but have little meaning or focus. A story of such heartache that the reader can actually feel the pain and suffering of the storytellers.

Even when the book is heavy handed in its delivery, Bock has the ability to bring words to life. One can see the scenes play out, can become one with the people described even if one's experience is very different. This is a tale of 21st Century decay and loneliness that we can all relate to.

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