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Issue 110 - A three strand yarn

Whisky Magazine Issue 110
March 2013


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A three strand yarn

Jefferson Chase delves into another whisky novel.

One noticeable – and welcome – literary trend of recent years are novels that jump radically between historical eras and find continuity in themes, rather than single heroes and heroines. David Mitchell and Jennifer Egan are two writers who produce these sorts of books, and we can add American Michael Cunningham to their company.

His 2006 novel Specimen Days is divided into three parts, all of which take pace in New York City. The first is a historical tale of 19th century industrial squalor, the second, a contemporary cop story about a police psychologist's battle against terrorists, and the third, a post-apocalyptic science fiction yarn.

Part three, entitled Like Beauty, begins with the protagonist Simon waiting to jump someone in Central Park:

Simon let the client get past the halfway point…Then he took off after him. He could see the man tense up. He continued obeying instructions, though. You'll hear footsteps. Don't turn to look. A New Yorker would never do a thing like that.

In this dystopian future, the United States has disintegrated into a number of zones ruled alternately by corporate soullessness and frontier violence. New York City has become a theme park where the affluent pay for the thrill of getting mugged – in controlled fashion of course.

Simon is a faux mugger, replete with Pumas and a CBGB's t-shirt. But he and one of his co-workers are also androids, products of artificial intelligence research that have fallen out of fashion and that must ...

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