THE EXQUISITE by Laird Hunt

THE EXQUISITE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The namesake of a 17th-century thief helms a fake murder ring in New York’s East Village.

Henry, a young man whom the big city has chewed up and spit out, meets a tall Dutch-like beauty named Tulip, who leads him to Aris Kindt, who lifted his name from the cadaver subject of Rembrandt’s The Anatomy Lesson. In homage to the late W.G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn, Hunt (Indiana, Indiana, 2003, etc.) makes ekphrastic use of book and painting as templates for a danse macabre, a mannered gavotte featuring Kindt’s ersatz murder posse: a near-bionic woman known only as “knockout”; contortionist twins; a failed faux murderer named Anthony or Job; and Cornelius, Kindt’s henchman from way back, to a certain night on Lake Otsego. Against a backdrop of post-9/11 upheaval—black netting on windows is a leitmotif—present and past conflate. A hospital that houses homeless Henry after he’s hit by a florist’s van segues seamlessly into an institution for the criminally insane. Entranced by his new mentor’s courtly persona, his crackers and talismanic herring spread, his tales of the Dutch theft of New York and his air of soft-spoken menace, Henry quickly becomes chief “executioner,” and there are hints that one victim, Kindt’s accountant, may have actually died. Facts are provisional; only questions propel the plot. What are the origins of Kindt’s identity and prosperity? How will Kindt’s fake murder devolve into a real murder for which Henry is framed? Although the work deliberately subverts linearity and relies on a stylishly down-at-heels East Village for much of its resonance, Sebald-concordance and elegant gimmickry do the heavy lifting. Hunt’s lapidary dialogue, sharp observation and penchant for enlivening character with a few deft strokes might be better showcased in a less meta-fictional straitjacket.

An author to watch once he “murders” his mentors.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 2006
ISBN: 1-56689-187-6
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Coffee House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 2006




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February 7, 2017
Laird Hunt

In Laird Hunt’s new novel The Evening Road, Ottie Lee Henshaw is a startling, challenging beauty in small-town Indiana. Quick of mind, she navigates a stifling marriage, a lecherous boss, and on one day in the summer of 1930 an odyssey across the countryside to witness a dark and fearful celebration. Meet Calla Destry, a determined young woman desperate to escape the violence of her town and to find the lover who has promised her a new life. On this day, the countryside of Jim Crow-era Indiana is no place for either. It is a world populated by frenzied demagogues and crazed revelers, by marauding vigilantes and grim fish suppers, by possessed blood hounds and, finally, by the Ku Klux Klan itself. The Evening Road is the story of two remarkable women on the move through an America riven by fear and hatred, and eager to flee the secrets they have left behind. “Hunt brings to mind Flannery O’Connor’s grotesques and Barry Hannah’s bracingly inventive prose and cranks. He is strange, challenging, and a joy to read,” our reviewer writes in a starred review.

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