Friday, 31 January 2014

Book Review: Mall by Eric Bogosian

One night a few years ago I happened across a movie called 'Talk Radio'. I was stunned by what I was watching and barely moved until the final tense moments of this riveting film. It was about a very charismatic talk radio host (think Howard Stern but more political) and one fateful day at work. I'm not here to review the movie so I'll keep this short. It was just brilliant. The dialogue was so perfect, I was not surprised when I realized it was originally a stage play. The main character of the film was played by Eric Bogosian, who I thought looked liked Jerry Seinfeld after many years of hard drinking. I don't mean to sound cynical. 

I eventually looked up the movie online and discovered that Eric Bogosian not only acted in it, but wrote the movie and the original stage play. I also learned that he was the author of two novels. I made a mental note to look for his books.

So eventually I stumbled upon a copy of his novel, 'Mall'. 'Mall' tells the story of five people whose lives intersect one night at the local mall. These characters are regular suburbanites; from an emotionally distracted teenager, to tired middle-aged housewife. 

Eric Bogosian has a near perfect nack for dialogue. He knows how people speak. You get the impression that the author has spent a lot of time with a lot of different people; He's spent part of his career performing monologues as wide variety of metropolitan characters. 

But the great character writing doesn't just come from the dialogue. 'Mall' is written in a third-person past tense style where each chapter focuses on a different character, alternating until the wires cross. His focus on inner-dialogue reveals that nastiness and hidden desires of the characters. The character of 'Mall' are most definitely flawed, but the way in which those flaws are revealed only result in the reader becoming even closer to them.

'Mall' is a novel that I would recommend to readers of someone like, say, Chuck Palahniuk. The dark wit and elements of satire mixed into this book bring to mind the early works or Palahniuk. But what's great about 'Mall' is that the narrator is Mr. Bogosian himself. With 'Mall' he writes in a spares style that I believe makes it more accessible for readers. But of course readers have to know this book exist!

This is only one of three novels by a writer I would say is one of my all time favorites. I recommend 'Mall' by Eric Bogosian'. 

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