Mini Review: “Neon in Daylight,” by Hermione Hoby

Neon in Daylight, by Hermione Hoby

I’m of two minds about this book. I enjoyed it well enough that I am glad I read it, and I do recommend it. At the same time, it irritated me by embodying so many clichés of new writing, that is, of work written by Millennials and their predecessors. The detached tone that I call “third person indifferent, a sort of hipsterized Hemingway; the self-conscious references to social media; the writer-as-main-character (one of three main characters in this case); the impossibly beautiful post-adolescent from comfortable circumstances who curates herself into a simulacrum of a mushmouthed lowlife (a “herself” in this case, but male protagonists do it too, perhaps more frequently); the bourgeois naif who is freed from the shackles of convention by her relationship with said faux-lowlife, who feeds the naif a diet of orgiastic parties and recreational drugs–with the added twist that the naif is also being freed from the shackles of convention by her affair with the aforementioned writer, who, it turns out, is a one-hit wonder with a fortunate film adaption providing royalties that OF COURSE let him afford an apartment in Manhattan. He is the father of the faux-lowlife. That last part is a surprise to all except the reader when it comes out.

There are time-outs for almost lush descriptions of New York City street life, which are really very good, but for me–well, I have known both faux-lowlifes and the real thing, as well as alcoholics and even writers (contrary to popular belief, they are not always identical), and perhaps because of that I found the characters irritating. The story, well-written though it is, did not inspire compassion.

There was more humanity in Annie Proulx’s depiction of trailer trash in “The Wamsutter Wolf” (though Proulx is not a “warm” writer) and a sharper dissection of its hypocrisies. And the British bourgeoise who is led to enlightenment through drugs, sex, and six-inch heels is just too clueless to be real.

Also, the side plot of the faux-lowlife’s foray into pseudo-prostitution is likewise more clinical than compelling, though it does establish her more firmly as a self-centered boor.

Yes, I am complaining a great deal about a book that I overall appreciated, and I must say that it is still worth reading, but…come on, folks; enough is enough!

Rick Risemberg


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