ULTRALUMINOUS by Katherine  Faw


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Another unsparing novel from the author of Young God (2014).

No one here has a name. There’s “the junk-bond guy,” “the calf’s brain guy,” “the art guy,” and “the guy who buys me things.” These are all clients. There’s “the ex–Army Ranger,” a lover. There’s “the Sheik,” a man she met in Dubai, another boyfriend. Finally, there’s the narrator, who identifies herself only with a series of pseudonyms—Slavic diminutives of her real name, because everyone seems to think she’s Polish or Russian, and she is willing to let people think what they think. As for her own thoughts, they are her only real possession, and she keeps them to herself. The damaged, emotionally reticent prostitute is a cliché, of course, but Faw’s approach to this subject is inventive and surprising. Her heroine’s caginess informs the shape of the novel. The story unfolds in a series of short vignettes, microfictions only tenuously connected by anything like a plot. Even in the private space of this text, the narrator reveals little about herself or the men who pay for her services. Every glimpse of the author’s innermost self functions as a sign of how much she’s withholding. Faw’s language is simultaneously blunt and opaque, precise and obfuscating. Descriptions of sex, violence, and drug addiction are free from euphemism or romance, but crucial facts are often omitted. The narrator has returned to New York after working as a prostitute in the United Arab Emirates, and 9/11 casts a shadow over the story. But the reality that it’s just as easy to buy a woman in the United States as it is in the Middle East makes easy moral oppositions impossible. The narrator keeps hold of her life by recognizing and following patterns, and a story that, at first, seems shapeless comes into focus at the end. To say that it is brilliant is not to say that it’s pleasant.

Artful and ruthless. 

Pub Date: Dec. 5th, 2017
ISBN: 978-0-374-27966-0
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: MCD/Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2017


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