NARCISA by Jonathan Shaw


Our Lady of Ashes
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The ugly saga of the relationship between a self-professed outlaw and a psychotic crack whore.

This drug-fueled, Beat-influenced slab of a novel arrives with a bizarre pedigree. Tattoo artist–turned-novelist Shaw (Love Songs to the Dead, 2009, etc.) is the son of jazz great Artie Shaw and the contemporary of kindred spirits ranging from Iggy Pop to Lydia Lunch, who contributes an introduction. Here, his 2007 debut novel (originally published by indie Heartworm Press) has been shepherded to republication by Johnny Depp. Unfortunately, this novel about an obsessed bandito and the raging lunatic he falls for is trying so hard to mimic other writers’ styles that it ultimately doesn’t find much to say that is new or different from its influences. Our narrator is Ignacio Valencia Lobos, known on the streets of Rio de Janeiro as “Cigano,” or gypsy. After years running heroin between Mexico and California, Cigano has kicked his habit in prison and come home. “Wide awake now. Picking up the shattered pieces of a faded, fuzzy little jigsaw puzzle nightmare called Home,” he says. His life is pretty much destroyed when he meets Narcisa, a glue-huffing, babbling poet/prostitute with a psyche shattered by childhood sexual abuse, a zealous addiction to drugs and a broken patois that doesn’t always sound authentic. That’s pretty much it for the next several hundred pages—the damaged duo have violent, incensed sex, they fight, she leaves, she comes back, and then the cycle starts all over again. He gets a little insight into her condition from “Doc,” a kind of odd paternal figure to Narcisa. But the cycle is always the same old same old when Cigano turns back up on Narcisa’s doorstep. “So what if my love was for a psychotic, violent, abusive, foul-mouthed, unsanitary crack whore with a hell-bent rage and an insatiable appetite for destruction?” Ain’t love grand?

A mix-and-match novel with the grunge of Bukowski, the teeth-grinding momentum of the Beats and the acidic self-loathing of addiction novels.

Pub Date: March 24th, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-06-235499-0
Page count: 624pp
Publisher: Perennial/HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1st, 2015


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