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The Thieves of Manhattan: A Novel Paperback – July 13, 2010
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In the beginning Ian, a failing writer, meets Jed, another failed author, or is he a scam artist? and they embark on an adventure as they rewrite Jed's memoir. Along the way they speculate about what literary talent is, who has it, who's a fake or real in the corporate literary world and among their fellow writers. I loved the inside look into book society as well as the adventure tale running throughout the story. There are also a few love stories along the way and some cloak and dagger adventure. Best were the humor and the sense of fun. I enjoyed Langer's book immensely.
As said I loved it, as in past tense. Someone once wrote or said that in a novel an author can get away with one coincidence, and I suppose in a tolstoy (really hefty one) perhaps a couple. As this story unspools the coincidences, the accidents of improbable timing are simply staggering. It became almost impossible to suspend disbelief--as if one had been reading an amusing book that suddenly turned into a Indiana Jones adventure, and then into a cartoon.
In the first half there were a couple of plot distractions that caused hairline cracks in my suspension of disbelief, but they weren't fatal. All of a sudden something happens on page 174 that doesn't seem wrong until later in the story, but eventually it causes major cracks in the disbelief problem. (I don't want to make this a spoiler.) On page 194 a genuine deus ex machina appears in the form of an overweight café owner--unexpected and really inexplicable, although the author tries to explain it. In another scene the hero apparently reaches out for a glass of water but two pages later his hands are tied so that he has to indicate something with his chin as a pointer.
Lastly, I wished that I'd stopped reading at about page 190 and skipped to the last chapter. In the in between our hero becomes something of a human punching bag who should have been dead or hospitalized but manages with amazing resilience to bounce back like Wiley Coyote.
Hence the three stars.
So I don't think Langer wrote this novel - which is very good and funny - as a bitter rejoinder to the literary world for not seeing his talent. He's clearly NOT the character "Ian Minot", but he's obviously distressed at the state of the literary society today where authors and agents and publishers play a game with literary output. I couldn't help but laugh at the number of "blurbs" from other well-known writers praising Langer's book.
I think I'll wait awhile to see what others say about "Thieves of Manhattan" and Langer's reason for writing it. I have a feeling that either the book will be ignored or will actually bring about some valid questioning of the literary establishment.
In any case, as always, Langer's novel is a great read, with his usual sly wit. I also think its great that the book was published in trade paper instead of hard back.