In the shadow of Hollywood (and their own demons), an unlikely couple fall into a ruinous, all-consuming love affair.
Crosbie’s (Where Did You Sleep Last Night, 2016, etc.) new novel is a trippy, devastating, and blackly comedic look at the true price of love, told from the perspective of Parnell Wilde, an aging, once-famous movie star who now lives in squalor and takes any job he can get—including one involving a chicken suit. Parnell seems likely to go the way of many washed-up actors until he meets Annabel Wrath, a stunning and troubled feminist filmmaker with a cultlike following. Throughout their relationship, pain and pleasure are inextricably woven together. Despite trying to make each other better, Parnell and Annabel seem unable to escape or recover from their painful pasts. One secret in particular wedges them further apart until they reach their disastrous denouement. At one point, Parnell says, “We are the happiest right now, I think, pushing a pin through the moment as it passes into memory and is leached of color and sound.” Even their best moments are tinged with sadness and relegated to the past. Crosbie’s writing, while not for everyone, is both lucid and lurid. In her experimental, art house–esque style, intrigue, horror, and compassion coexist. Stanley Kubrick’s film A Clockwork Orange hangs over the novel like a shroud, and the book often feels like an acid trip or fever dream full of bright colors, dizzying violence, and warped timelines. Details are hard to hold onto because Parnell is a wildly unreliable narrator with what he describes as “selective amnesia.” While jarring, the gap-filled narrative successfully portrays an addled man ruined by love and fame. The ending, which feels both inevitable and slightly disappointing, stays true to the novel’s painful yet spirited tone.
A disturbing and poetic punk-rock version of the classic star-crossed lovers tale.