Monday, July 14, 2008


The Book: Caleb Carr, THE ANGEL OF DARKNESS. Random House, 1997. Good book in good dust jacket; spine is slightly cocked, both book and dust jacket show signs of exposure to damp.
First read: 1997
Owned since: 1997

Home again, after spending yesterday in New Haven with Karen Olson and her family. A great day, but train delays meant I didn't get home until 3:00 this morning, and I'm still a little groggy.

It's good to be home, but New York has its own magic. Boston is older, Washington is cleaner, Chicago is friendlier, but New York is still The City. (Yes, I know people in San Francisco call that The City. They're wrong.) Millions of people, hundreds of thousands of cars, people coming and going at every hour of day and night. I met a friend in Soho on Sunday afternoon, and "Another Hundred People" was playing on my iPod:

Another hundred people just got off of the train
And came up to the ground
While another hundred people just got off of the bus
And are looking around
At another hundred people who got off of the plane
And are looking at us
Who got off of the train
And the plane and the bus
Maybe yesterday...

Caleb Carr's first novel, THE ALIENIST, was a true publishing phenomenon: a runaway bestseller that was also a beautifully-written book and a solid historical document. This much-anticipated sequel drew a backlash that now seems inevitable; I actually think it's better than its predecessor.

THE ANGEL OF DARKNESS is narrated by Stevie Taggart, a child of the streets who now works for the reporter John Schuyler Moore (who narrated THE ALIENIST). Both of them work with the noted alienist (psychiatrist) Laszlo Kreizler and their friend Sara Howard, who is establishing herself as a private investigator.

The wife of a Spanish diplomat comes to Sara when her child is kidnapped, and Sara enlists her friends' help with the case. What they find is a woman named Libby Hatch, whose true nature is far more sinister than anything any of them could imagine. Kreizler, with personal experience of such a woman, is the only one not fooled.

It all happens in 1897 New York, and the city itself is as much a character in the novel as any of the humans. Carr gives us the details of everyday life, with descriptions of meals and carriages and buildings long gone; beyond that, his narrator gives us the world through the eyes of a street urchin at the turn of the century, and it's a much different place from ours.

I'm looking for a place to live in New York for the month of September. If you know of anything, or know anyone looking for a housesitter or month-long sublet, please let me know.

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