Noah’s Turn. Ken Finkleman. In the Argo Catalog.
This book, which will hit shelves in late August, is being billed as a modern Crime and Punishment. As a Dostoevsky fan I thought I was intrigued which is what the publisher hopes many people will say. The power of C & P is that the crime happens at the start leaving the rest of the book largely an introspective of the character. When a writer tries to link their work to a literary giant they are playing a dangerous game, setting expectations high and suggesting you compare them with said giant. While it may help sales I think Finkleman loses in the comparison, he should have gotten more familiar with Dostoevsky’s novels and how they work before writing his book.
Noah kills his best friend with a machete. He does this on a whim (though he does hate this old pal). Unlike Raskolnikov, Noah is a shallow character and not very introspective regarding his act. Perhaps Finkleman or his editors feared that readers would not enjoy the intense, slow, in-depth self-judgment at the heart of C & P. The conclusion is weak and left me wondering if they wrapped the book up as they did so that it would remain a quick read (I never read any of Dostoevsky’s novels in only a day). Underestimating the reader is the only explanation for how this book project turned out. The end renders the book facile, the characters, including Noah, are rather tame, shallow, caricature-like, and uncompelling (read flat and boring).
The high point in the novel is when Noah, who is a screenwriter for a police drama, is in the police station and trying to understand what is being told to him through the lens of a camera. Noah is told by a cop that identifying a guy in a lineup is “little more than a formality,” Finkleman tells us “Noah hated the clichÃ© ‘little more than a formality’. He had used it himself in his scripts when he was fucking over the suspect.” The potential of the narrative to go down this road where a character is explicitly mimicking the artificial life of television hints at what this book could have been. Who isn’t interested in the ways television teaches us and affect the way we look at things? If you are seeking a dostoyevskian drama with a moral dilemna presented early on I very strongly recommend you read The Lost Highway by David Adams Richards rather than this book. If you’ve already read it then maybe it is time to back and read some Dostoevsky again because there has only ever been one such writer.