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The Night Inspector (Ballantine Reader's Circle) Paperback – May 2, 2000
Intrusion: A Novel
A loving couple, grieving the loss of their son, finds their marriage in free fall when a beautiful, long-lost acquaintance inserts herself into their lives. Learn More
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And what exactly has the narrator lost? As we learn in a sequence of flashbacks, Bartholomew served as a Union sniper, picking off stray Confederate soldiers in an extended bout of psychological warfare. Eventually, though, he received a taste of his own medicine, when a enemy bullet destroyed most of his face. Outfitted with an eerie papier-mâché mask, Bartholomew tends to shock postwar observers into silence:
I imagine I understand their reaction: the bright white mask, its profound deadness, the living eyes beneath--within--the holes, the sketched brows and gashed mouth, airholes embellished, a painting of a nose.... Nevertheless. I won this on your behalf, I am tempted to cry, or pretend to. The specie of the nation, the coin of the realm, our dyspeptic economy, the glister and gauge of American gold: I was hired to wear it!Bartholomew has, it should be obvious, a formidable mastery of rhetoric. It's appropriate, then, that he should hook up with that supreme exponent of the American baroque, Herman Melville--who at this point is a burnt-out customs inspector (and candidate for some Victorian 12-step plan). Together these outcasts embark upon a plan to rescue a group of black children from their Florida servitude. This caper--along with Bartholomew's attachment to a gold-hearted, elaborately tattooed prostitute--allows the novel to veer in the direction of the penny dreadful. Yet Busch's mastery of period detail, and of the very shape of century-old syntax, remains extraordinary on every page. And true to its title, The Night Inspector is a superb investigation of darkness--in both the physical and psychological sense. "I was reckless," the narrator insists, "and born with great vision though not, alas, of the interior, spiritual sort." By the end of the novel, most readers will decide that he's undersold himself. --Bob Brandeis --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
An accomplished woodsman and eagle eye, Bartholomew served in the war as a marksman, sniper, assassin or thug, depending on the perspective. He was a great hunter of Rebel soldiers until he was brought down by a hideous, disfiguring wound, requiring him to wear a strap-on pasteboard, painted face crafted specially for him. "I'm a coin imprinted with Abe's earnestness." In New York, he stays to the shadows -- masked, despairing of humanity and disillusioned with his country.
America, then as now, gets squeamish when faced with the consequences of the awful things it asks its young men to do.
"Passersby regarded us with curiosity, with disquiet, with sorrow and pity and disgust. Men with pinned or flapping sleeves and men on crutches jerked and wobbled on Broadway. Men with specially fitted masks, with artificial jaws and gleaming ivory temple plates or metal cheekbones, swelled the crowds at Madison Square." Bartholomew's own wound "made me think of pink roasted beef left for weeks in the cupboard and still, somehow, damp."
In a darkened dive run by a fellow veteran, he takes respite from horrified reaction. There he meets Herman Melville, out of critical favor and also given to philosophical brooding. A friendship forms over glasses of wine and slightly suspicious cuts of meat as the men sit and debate human nature, American expansionism and whale metaphors.Read more ›
Those of you who are familiar with Busch, most particularly his 1997 "Girls", will recognize that he is reworking many of his previous themes, as many authors tend to do. Busch again deals with a narrator with a past which he blames himself for, and seeks redemption for, and for which he (similarly) finds little. We've got the recurring theme of parental loss of a child, which Busch has dealt with several times.
As in Girls, we've got a narrator who we as readers will find that we have uncomfortably mixed emotions about. Bartholomew is a character who we would like to like (love, even), yet the fact that his past haunts him...haunts us. The book switches between post-civil war New York and Bartholomew's own experiences as a calculating, cold-blooded sniper. The war scenes are the strongest in the novel, while the post-war scenes sometimes seem to have loose ends.
Overall, this book is, like "Girls," exquisitely written, soulful, and resonates (with this reader at least) long after the last page has been turned. Busch's characterization and dialogue is some of the best I've read.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Starkly bleak and stunningly vivid rendition of a 1867 New York City. Sounds great, I love NY stories as much as I dislike the place itself, which is considerably. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Mia
Take the sniper from Winslow Homer’s Civil War picture “The Army of the Potomac—A Sharpshooter on Picket Duty,” put him together with Herman Melville in the twilight of his career,... Read morePublished 9 months ago by now what
This book was difficult to read--both because of the particular prose and because of some of the content. Yet it was also beautiful, and it drew me completely into its world. Read morePublished 14 months ago by dephal
The Night Inspector is full of prose that is so well-crafted and a rare pleasure to read. The author is also masterful at depicting life and suffering in ways that are both poetic... Read morePublished on July 22, 2013 by Jack M. Walter
Like all Frederick Busch books that I have read, I greatly enjoyed this -a plausible, entertaining piece of historical fiction.Published on February 26, 2013 by BR
This is not a quick read. It's a stunningly beautifully painted story - gentle, brutal, powerful, strong in it's sense of time and place. It's one of those books to be savored. Read morePublished on July 26, 2011 by bookloverintexas
fantastic book, superbly written, haunting, historically interesting- you will never forget this book. too bad the author died....he was a really great writer. Read morePublished on May 13, 2011 by sue
I was highly disappointed with this book. I have not read him before, but thought I would give this book a try. Read morePublished on April 6, 2008 by D. Renwick
Excellent novel about a bitter Civil War veteran out to make his fortune in post-Civil War New York City. Read morePublished on February 17, 2008 by S. Chambers