Sunday, September 12, 2010

Cary Grant Singlehandedly Averts the Cold War, Proving McCarthy to be the Fool He Is: MI6, Yugoslavia & Alfred Hitchcock's Unmade Film in Wu Ming's 54

Any novel that begins with this prologue:
"'Post-war' means nothing.
What fools called 'peace' simply meant moving away from the front.
Fools defended peace by supporting the armed wing of money.
Beyond the next dune the clashes continued. The fangs of chimerical beasts sinking into flesh, the heavens full of steel and smoke, whole cultures uprooted from the earth.
Fools fought the enemies of today by bankrolling those of tomorrow.
Fools swelled their chests, talked of 'freedom', 'democracy', 'in our country', as they devoured the fruits of riots and looting.
They were defending civilisation against Chinese shadows of dinosaurs.
They were defending the planet against fake images of asteroids.
They were defending the Chinese shadow of a civilization.
They were defending the fake image of a planet."
...and follows it on the back cover with reviews like this by the London Times Literary Supplement:
"This new work amply confirms Wu Ming's talent... Utterly convincing. What emerges is an epic about identity and celebrity, communism and corruption... A stupendous, charming, provocative and profound novel. It makes most modern books seem paltry in comparison."
...has my attention. A almost Pynchon-esque post-WW II depiction of the Italian/Yugoslavian 'zone' after the division of the territories and the partisan armies fighting both the Fascist forces in Italy and the encroaching German horde on the Communist border. The result? The amorphous postwar time/geography where the United States, Russia, the UK and Italy were all vying for a foothold as criminals, opportunists, political factions and espionage on all sides working the angles. Told from the generation who saw the very end of the war and attempts to reclaim their familial and cultural heritage from these competing factions, "54" by Wu Ming collective takes off from these political realities to spin a 'alternate reality' tale akin to Chabon's "Yiddish Policeman's Union" set in the era of the birth of the TV, the Suburbs, the postwar influence of America's Dream being the only dream, Hollywood's battle with McCarthyism and the nationwide witch hunt that was the 'Red Scare', the very beginnings of Vietnam and the decades of the Cold War that was to follow. So entrenched in reality and history, that when the events to detour, I often went to check my facts, especially when as we're reaching the culmination of the ensemble-cast threads all beginning to converge, Hollywood, British espionage MI6, Tito's Yugoslavia, Cannes, Italian Mobsters, Alfred Hitchcock and... Cary Grant all find themselves in the most unlikely (totally plausible) ciaroscuro of history, commerce, entertainment, politics, and postwar rebuilding fervor. Pretty darn brilliant. As a young collective of authors, this being an early work of theirs, already ranking near Chabon or Pynchon, if they've got more of this in them, expect Wu Ming to become known.