PROSE AND CONS  by Chuck Katz


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A stimulating spectacle of crime and interpersonal melodrama in which two very different writers’ paths cross with unexpected results.

Brooklynite co-authors Katz and Starr conjure the thrills and machinations of the writing life in a story of two characters who collaborate and commingle their talents and aspirations. The story opens in 2010—a time of war, soaring unemployment, and a crumbling housing market. Young writer and former Californian Kia Kuniya navigates Manhattan’s unforgiving job market, hunting for gainful employment, while also taking care of a pet bunny named Monsieur Floppy. With the determination of a true city slicker (“My unlimited MetroCard is the closest thing I have to a superpower”), she manages to land a job in a coffee shop, but she’s assaulted by a diminutive, gap-toothed attacker on her way to her first shift. Kia’s knight in shining armor materializes in the form of Dylan Miller, who swoops in and rescues her from being beaten up on the sidewalk. Dylan is a writer, as well, and he and Kia quickly hit it off despite the unconventional circumstances of their meeting—and the fact that he might have killed her attacker after fending him off. Dylan proves to be a marijuana-smoking egocentric whose love-hate rants about the city are as epic and unbelievable as his history as a multiple widower. Still, he and Kia share a jovial attraction, particularly after Kia returns to Dylan’s basement apartment, after recuperating, to show him the illustrated story that she wrote about the shocking ordeal.

Katz and Starr show how each character recognizes the drive, creativity, and true talent in the other. Kia and Dylan soon become “partner[s] in prose” and begin penning new stories as romantic sparks fly between them. Kia eventually moves into Dylan’s subterranean abode, and their cohabitation inspires an exchange of personal histories, including Dylan’s admittance of residual psychological trauma from the events of 9/11. Over the course of the novel, both characters play off each other well, and their personalities amiably suit the narrative tone; also, both become engrossed in the many pleasures and pains of the creative writing process, which will delight readers who are also authors. Throughout the book’s second half, as Kia and Dylan’s quirky story matures, Dylan’s past cruel shenanigans and untruths are exposed, which leads to unpleasant consequences for the hopeful scribe. Katz and Starr’s collaborative prose is fast-paced throughout the novel—wonderfully character-driven and consistently clever. They also offer memorable descriptions, such as of eager baristas approaching with “double espresso enthusiasm” or of someone ranting with the “lung capacity of a scuba diver.” The authors know New York well, and they describe its percolating energy, rushing street traffic, and weathered population with gritty realness. In the novel’s conclusion, the law catches up to Dylan, leading to a confession of intent to pen a multivolume series of sequels, which should please readers who aren’t quite ready to say goodbye to this dynamic duo.  

A kaleidoscopic escapade with a resilient and uniquely addictive pair of characters.

Page count: 337pp
Publisher: Self
Program: Kirkus Indie
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 2019


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