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Generation Loss Paperback – Bargain Price, April 14, 2008
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Praise for Elizabeth Hand's previous novels:
"Inhabits a world between reason and insanity-it's a delightful waking dream."--People
"One of the most sheerly impressive, not to mention overwhelmingly beautiful books I have read in a long time."--Peter Straub
Cass Neary made her name in the 1970s as a photographer embedded in the burgeoning punk movement in New York City. Her pictures of the musicians and hangers on, the infamous, the damned, and the dead, got her into art galleries and a book deal. But 30 years later she is adrift, on her way down, and almost out. Then an old acquaintance sends her on a mercy gig to interview a famously reclusive photographer who lives on an island in Maine. When she arrives Downeast, Cass stumbles across a decades-old mystery that is still claiming victims, and into one final shot at redemption.
Questions for Elizabeth Hand
Jeff VanderMeer for Amazon.com: Your novel Generation Loss introduces readers to a very eccentric and sometimes selfish photographer named Cass. Are all artists inherently selfish?
Hand: Yes. You can't be an artist without being inherently self-involved, without believing that the world owes you a living, and that everything you do--anything, matter how sick or twisted or feeble or pathetic--is worthy of attention. This is the secret behind the success of stuff like American Idol and YouTube. This is the world Andy Warhol bequeathed to us.
Amazon.com: Isn't it partially that selfishness that results in great fiction? Isn't the antagonist of your novel in a way driven by selfishness?
Hand: I don't think I'd call it selfishness, to be truthful. I think creating any real art depends on an intense amount of focus¬--of filtering out the rest of the world as much as you can, to sustain and then impart your own vision or secondary world--what John Gardner called "the vivid and continuous dream." I think the antagonist of Generation Loss sees himself as being impelled by love--romantic love, carnal love, the pure love of artistic creation--not selfishness. Whereas Cass's motivation is something far darker and more sinister than love. She's seen the abyss; she lives there.
Amazon.com: Is Cass Neary a prototypical "bad girl"?
Hand: Well, she's your prototypical amoral speedfreak crankhead kleptomaniac murderous rage-filled alcoholic bisexual heavily-tattooed American female photographer. So, yeah.
Amazon.com: So this is definitely not what you'd call "chick lit"?
Hand: Umm, probably not. If it were a movie, it would have a NC-17 rating. Or maybe NR. Is Lolita considered chick lit? That book had a huge influence on me, especially with this novel. I always wanted to create a narrator like Humbert Humbert, someone utterly reprehensible and unsympathetic who still manages to command a reader's attention and even an uneasy sympathy. I loved the idea of making a reader complicit with the crimes committed by a protagonist. The simple act of continuing to turn the pages makes you guilty by association.
Amazon.com: Did you have a particular artist in mind as the inspiration for the foul-smelling but visionary paintings in the novel?
Hand: No. That part I made up.
Amazon.com: C'mon. You're not allowed to just make things up. Spill the beans.
Hand: No, I really didn't have anyone in mind. There are elements of the work of photographers I admire--Robert Mapplethorpe, Cindy Sherman, Sally Man, Joel-Peter Witkin--and of outsider artists like Henry Darger or Richard Dadd or Roky Erickson. But the whole concept of an artist creating his own emulsion paper--I thought of that, then researched it and learned that, indeed, some photographers work that way. I also consulted a photographic conservator who's an acquaintance and asked him, Is this possible? He said yes, and I took it from there.
Amazon.com: Are people in Maine as mean toward tourists as you describe?
Hand: No. Just me. Though folks who work at the general store three doors down from me really do sometimes wear a T-shirt that reads THEY CALL IT TOURIST SEASON, WHY CAN'T WE SHOOT THEM? So, okay, me and them.
Amazon.com: Have you ever driven a tourist off your property with a shovel?
Hand: Not yet. But I would. A few years ago friend said he pictured me up on the Laurentian shield, threatening outsiders with a pitchfork. That's pretty accurate.
Amazon.com: Weren't you once a tourist?
Hand: Never. I lived in DC for 13 years, and worked for a long time at the Smithsonian's National Air & Space Museum--Tourist Central. That effectively killed any sympathy I might ever have had towards them.
Amazon.com: What's coming up for you?
Hand: Well, I'll be doing some touring and readings for this book, and I hope to record the entire novel as a podcast/audio book--I'm very excited to be performing again. I'm presently at work on a YA novel about Arthur Rimbaud called Wonderwall, to be published by Viking, and am brooding on another novel that might be something along the lines of Generation Loss, or not. I get restless and like to shift gears a lot. So we'll see.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
More About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
Hand does a terrific job of inserting subtle taps in between brick-in-the face punches, both on the mirco-level of almost passing remarks in the middle of a scene and on the macro-level of Cass Neary's progress through the story. The result is an amazingly cross-complementary cooperation between the main character's redemption and the narrative structure and language of the book itself.
What the heck does that mean? Well, without giving away any spoilers (I hope), it means that the evolution out of a private hell and into reenfranchisement with the rest of humanity comes through in both character actions and the broader subject matter and narrative focus of the entire book -- and one half of that feeds the other half so delicately that I didn't pick up on it until days later. Yes, this is a book that stays with you. (Anything more I might say would both sound unforgivably academic and could taint the experience for someone who hasn't read it yet.)
I think all of this is even more impressive when considering that Hand *hated* writing this book. Fortunately for the rest of us, she pressed on. Read it.
With that out of the way, this is a well-researched, character-driven thriller, and in my opinion the best Hand novel to date. I'd definitely put it in my top 10 of books read this year. I think the author worked hard to make Generation Loss more accessible than her earlier books by keeping the pace moving and keeping the vocabulary at the high school level. She displays her usual flair for description and keen eye for characters on the fringe of society.
The novel begins with our down-and-out noire heroine, Cassandra Neary. Once a moderately successful art photographer, she has given up on her art career and started living paycheck to paycheck as a bookstore stockroom employee. A call from an acquaintance sends her to an isolated island community off the coast of Maine to interview the photographer whose work had first inspired her own work. Unable to resist, she heads out to the islands to meet her idol. Cassandra is understandable but not predictable, and her sarcastic humor and temptation to cause mischief make her endearing without being approachable. I almost could have skipped the action/thriller portion of the book and just kept playing voyeur into Cassandra's life. Overall, I would highly recommend this novel to people who want a creepy and fascinating summer read.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Troubled photographer Cass Neary has been living on the fringes in NYC since her brief heyday as a punk photographer (think Nan Golden). Read morePublished 2 months ago by Melanie Lamaga
Say you're a late 40s burnout, burdened by few ethics and no plans, with no lovers or friends, working a dead end job, fueled by drugs and petty theft. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Randy Stafford
One of my favorite books! Set off the Maine coast. A great read.Published 14 months ago by Sven Davisson
Ms. Hand knows how to write and she had me hooked from the beginning. I'm no expert in the punk movement nor of photography but I really liked Cass. Read morePublished on January 19, 2014 by Hans W. Glogauer
This is a book that stayed with me for years after I read it. I picked it up on a trusted recommendation, having no idea what it was about or even what genre it was. Read morePublished on December 29, 2013 by laura hannegan
This book did nothing for me. The plot and the characters felt forced throughout, and I did not enjoy one page of it.Published on November 6, 2013 by Siobhan
An interesting, compelling story with a trainwreck of a protagonist -- who could ask for anything more? Crime definitely goes punk.Published on September 29, 2013 by David Lohmeier