Hard Rain Falling. Don Carpenter. An NYRB Book In the Argo Catalog.
Who amongst us has never fought an institution? Who has never despaired at the injustice of a grade they received from a teacher that just didn’t understand? Who has not howled as they watched their friends destroyed by the madness of society? who, in short, has not raged against the machine? Mr. Carpenter’s is a gritty book. It is a book about how where you start life can truly be unfair. There are certain beginnings that are excessively difficult to overcome. At the heart of this novel is the question of freedom in society.
The main character, Mr. Levitt, fights against society, and so do his acquaintances (one would be hard-pressed to call them friends). They are a group that start behind the eight ball in life and soon find themselves hustling at pool halls. Their anger and their stubbornness cost them a great deal over their lives. Yet we know they are just being true to themselves. It is hard to know if that counts for much when the characters are in prison or involved in hateful relationships.
What strikes me about this novel is that the characters are mostly bad people, selfish and unable to adjust to society, and yet I want things to work out for them.Â I have been in situations where I fought systems, I do not think I have ever won. Even so I would not change my position (tactics is another question). By staying true to my stubborn self I have attempted to avoid condoning acts or systems that I find abhorrent. This of course, has cost me some advantagesÂ in life. I think it has worked out for me so far. It is an interesting trick Mr. Carpenter uses in order to get the reader to side with his characters.
This is a clever novel about an interesting question we all face from time to time. Its insights are mediocre, it will not solve any of your problems or answer your questions, and likely will not change you in any meaningful way; but it will show you that many people face dilemmas and it might make you feel good about how you face yours.