Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Paranoia strikes deep

Eoin McNamee does not quite embrace paranoia as a subject the way Alan Glynn does,  but everything in his 2004 novel The Ultras is, as the narrator remarks of a photograph, "rife with ambiguity."

Glynn handles the issue a bit more deftly than McNamee does, if only because he shows where McNamee often tells. The tells are a few key phrases, most obviously "You have a sense that ... " No one knows in this novel, they only sense.

Both authors recognize the chilling, alienating, mind-deadening effect of buzz words, regime change, brand, take it to the next level, change the conversation for Glynn; high-tech military jargon in McNamee's tale of a disgraced cop's obsession with a mysterious intelligence operative in 1970s Northern Ireland.

What are you favorite novels of paranoia? Come on; tell us. You know we'll find out anyway.

© Peter Rozovsky 2011

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14 Comments:

Blogger seana said...

I like that cover.

As for paranoia, I'd have to think about it. I'm not sure I'm particularly drawn to them.

December 13, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

I never thought of myself as a big paranoia-type guy, but I liked Bloodland so much, and Alan Glynn has much to say about paranoia as a subject. I think you said Bloodland was on your list; read it, and see what you think.

It's a wonderfully atmospheric and fast-moving book, not all about gray men lurking in dark shadows on dimly lit streets.

December 13, 2011  
Blogger seana said...

Oh, I will. It's pretty high on my list.

December 13, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Glynn also wrote a piece somewhere calling the 1970s the golden age of paranoia, mostly in movies, and saying we need a return to those kinds of stories. He may be right. I think I linked to his piece in one of my posts about Bloodland.

December 13, 2011  
Anonymous Linkmeister said...

Many of Robert Ludlum's books feature a hero whose paranoia is palpable and highly justified. In the first Jason Bourne book (Identity) the poor shmoo has lots of people trying to kill him. He doesn't even know who he is, so how's he to figure out who's after him and why? Similarly with the hero in The Chancellor Manuscript. J. Edgar Hoover's files have the potential to endanger so many people that it's unclear which of them are after him.

December 14, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Do those books give a sense of a paranoid central character, or of a paranoid world? In the case of The Ultras especially, no one knows what's going on, not just the protagonist.

December 14, 2011  
Blogger John McFetridge said...

Glynn's piece was at the Mulholland Books website: http://www.mulhollandbooks.com/2010/08/20/%E2%80%9970s-paranoia-thrillers-and-why-we-need-them-now-more-than-ever/.

I'd put "Three Days of the Condor" on the list (I haven't read the other three days in the book ;) because even though people really were after him, the reasons were pretty paranoid.

December 14, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

And here’s the post where I link to Glynn’s piece. Thanks.

December 14, 2011  
Blogger adrian mckinty said...

Peter

Its only because we're down the thread a bit now that I can admit that Eoin drank me under the table. I matched him pint for pint but at the end of the evening he was recalling lines from Shelley and I was hammered like Jack London on a bad night.

December 15, 2011  
Blogger Tales from the Birch Wood. said...

"Dracula" plays on the reader's nerves, I think.

In fact, the 19th century had the best paranoia writers perhaps, notably Wilkie Collins.

The link to drug taking by some writers is worth thinking about.

December 15, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Adrian, you had mentioned elsewhere that he drank you under the table, but the Shelley-quoting is a fascinating new detail. Thanks.

December 15, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Tales, that link betweeen paranoia and terror is fascinating, maybe even the topic of a dissertation ot two.

You'll likely know that drug-taking is central to Alan Glynn's earlier novel "The Dark Fields" (also known as "Limitless").

December 15, 2011  
Blogger Photographe à Dublin said...

This certainly set me thinking aloud on my own blog.

The Irish love ghost stories and tales of terror, it seems.

The 19th century, up to about 1860 would be a good place for analysts of fiction to hang out, thought the thought of a thesis is quite exhausting.

I thought you would enjoy this photo:

"http://www.flickr.com/photos/girldiplomat/354056492"

December 15, 2011  
Blogger Peter Rozovsky said...

Hmm, we should all be that productive when shut in by bad weather. Of course, we should all have personal physicians, too.

I like this: "the pale student of unhallowed arts."

December 15, 2011  

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