James Wood wrote that Chekhov understood life to be “a tree of separate hanging stories.” This description returned to me again and again as I read Matthew Binder’s High in the Streets. Wood was referring to Chekhov’s use of detail, but Binder seems to have taken it as compositional principle of his book, which unfurls as a series of incidents, anecdotes, and tall tales.
But this debut novel’s sensibility reflects less Anton Chekhov and more Bret Easton Ellis. Lou Brown, our narrator, formerly destitute, turned his suicide note into a mega-bestselling novel. Five years later, having got his taste of the American Dream, Lou’s self-destructive impulses begin to regain control—this is where High in the Streets begins.
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