MOUNTAIN CITY by Gregory Martin


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Snapshots of the dying Nevada mining town of Mountain City, this unwieldy collage slaps together pictures of life there with little concern for how the pieces fit.

Mountain City, like all small towns, is only as interesting as the people in it, andwe do find some real gems that the miners left behind. Rosella Chambers, the oldest citizen and proud member of the widows’ club, jolts the narrative awake every moment she appears, whether driving her jeep with a broken hip or moving on to the nursing home in Elko after 90-plus years in her hometown. Likewise, Uncle Mel perks up any moments of sagging narration with, for example, his hilarious reaction to Zeno’s paradox and his views of the economic genius of prostitution; the man’s vibrant presence even outweighs his penchant for sophomoric jokes. Voyne the Wino, Martin’s cousin Graham, and a frozen kitten are other notable members of the cast of characters, and the story of Martin’s grandfather accidentally killing a neighbor’s dog is honestly poignant. Unfortunately, the townspeople never interact much: we see individuals but never get a deep sense of how the town forms a meaningful whole. Furthermore, the promising moments of Martin’s prose are marred horribly by his pedantic revelations: the astute reader does not need the author to assist with the mathematical observation that 33 people live in Mountain City, but that this number rises to 34 when he visits. Mercifully, Martin only pulls out the italics to mimic his grandmother during a few short moments of excruciatingly bad voiceover. Even when the emotional reaction is not quite as heavily directed, the banality of some scenes (such as when Gramps and Martin work outside in the cold and enjoy being together) inhibits any real interest in the lives lived in this dying town.

Mountain City deserves a better eulogy.

Pub Date: June 1st, 2000
ISBN: 0-86547-594-6
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: North Point/Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 2000