Ugh, I really have to pull 250 words out of thin air for this one? Okay. Here goes nothing…
The most recent season of Bojack Horseman, centers around the titular character starring in a tv show called Philbert. Philbert is a hilarious skewering of male-centered nihilistic mystery dramas that most clearly mocks True Detective. Now I liked season 1 of True Detective but it’s impossible to deny how cloying the presentation is of steely eyed men trying to right wrongs in the hellish underbelly of postmodern America.
Reading Night Train made me feel like I was reading the collective inner monologue of the True Detective writing room. I didn’t know until after I finished it that Amis intended this to be a sort of mirthless parody which…I guess he succeeded? I don’t know. You can probably knock me for being a dim literalist too baffled to fully understand the book’s premise. I just don’t know what’s going on here. I mean, I knew what was going on in terms of plot but the rest of the book left me with an “Uh…okay…why?” kind of feeling.
The book centers around a character named Mike, who is a masculine-passing female detective. Amis is likely trying to say something about gender and mess with the tough-talking detectives trope but like a lot of this book, there’s dissonance between what I feel he’s trying to say and how I read it because the creative ideas around Mike’s gender are never fully realized. The mystery itself: a perhaps-suicide in which Mike is investigating as a potential murder on the side as a favor to the decedent’s father, her boss with the PD, is an ancillary for the writer to muse on life, death, and especially suicide. None of these musings rise past the level of college dorm room philosophy, except again, that might be the point. Who knows???
But what’s most frustrating about this book isn’t that it’s bad: it’s not wholly bad. I felt like I could engage with the material, even if it often annoyed me. It’s that it should have been better. Amis is a good writer and he has a feel for the genre even if he’s just kicking up sand in its sandbox. It would be easy to say I didn’t like this. I feel like on some level, I should have liked this. And what nags me is the fault may be mine. But I can’t do anything else about that.
The bottom line is: I’m not usually a fan of the Pynchon/DeLillo postmodern school and while I’d never read Amis before this one, I assumed the slimness of the volume would allow me to engage with him on a level I could appreciate. But no. No. Maybe it’s the author. Maybe it’s me. But it didn’t work.