Max Sees Red by Martha King – Review

Jim Feast

Martha King, Max Sees Red (New York: Spuyten Duvvil, 2019) One of the greatest mysteries of Martha King’s brilliant new novel Max Sees Red does not appear in the narrative itself but in the author’s bio at the end. It reads, “Martha King has never lived in the Hudson Valley or in Soho where this story takes place.” The mystery is that this story, set in those two locales in 1978, paints such a vivid and detailed portrait, one with the ring of authenticity, so that until hitting this end note the reader thinks the author is using materials drawn from her own life. For instance, look at this this sharply etched description of the changing face of Hudson Valley: As Max turned the car from the parkway … he noticed the contrast between the first two houses [he saw]. The nearest … was roofed with rusted tin. Its wooden sides were faced with odd sections of black tar paper, and shiny greenish vinyl. .. The next ho...
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Kerouac: The Last Quarter Century by Gerald Nicosia – Review

Jim Feast

Kerouac: The Last Quarter Century Gerald Nicosia Corte Madera, CA: Noodlebrain Press, 2019 Gerald Nicosia's Kerouac: The Last Quarter Century is an absorbing and crucial book, laying out repeatedly how commerce triumphed over art and any real literary values in Kerouac's story. That story culminates with the scandal of auctioning off the roll manuscript of On the Road to a sports franchise owner, who obviously could not care less about the literary qualities of the text and knows it only as the work of a cult author, which may appreciate in value. It is also the story of the inheritance battle scandal which arises around will-tampering and high-priced lawyers. Putting aside that Kerouac died nearly penniless and now others are making millions off his legacy, the real crime is the fact that the values he espoused in On the Road and other texts, the importance of spirituality, comradeship, adventuring and giving zero atten...
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Victory City by John Strausbaugh – Review

Jim Feast

John Strausbaugh, Victory City: A History of New York and New Yorkers During World War II (New York: Twelve, 2018), 488 pages. John Strausbaugh’s Victory City is a chronicle of New York City right before, during and after World War II in a book that is at times sweeping in its marshaling of data, at others intimately in-depth in characterizing individual lives. Moreover, with an exemplary judiciousness, the book, while showing many instances of social solidarity as the city pulls together to battle the Axis, also reveals in every depiction, the counter-stresses that would maintain sexual and racial hierarchies, even to the point (before the U.S. directly enters the war) of many New Yorkers rooting for pro-fascist and anti-Semitic groups. His description of the Stage Door Canteen, for example, highlights this dual energy. The club on West 44th Street “was rather like a USO, only staffed with stars [who pitched in to aid the w...
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