Kill All Your Darlings: Pieces 1990-2005

By LUC SANTE

The last Luciferian doom-spiral of Rudy Giuliani?s presidential campaign, its crashing and its burning in the swamps of Florida, will have likely been greeted with a growl of approval and a raised glass in the household of Luc Sante. For this ex-New Yorker, who came of age as a writer in the fertile wreckage of pre-Giuliani Manhattan, the city?s former mayor was a killjoy and an empty vessel; even Rudy?s heavily-retailed heroism on 9/11 was a sort of historical trompe d?oeil. “He played the part of embattled leader rather well,” writes Sante in “The Sea-Green Incorruptible,” one of the essays collected here, “the enormity at hand being sufficient to make his choleric personality seem reasonable by contrast.” Only Sante could pull off a line like that. In literary terms he is a missing link, the quiet powerhouse of his style incorporating the old New Yorks of Joseph Mitchell and Elizabeth Hardwick with the perceptual rigors and penetrations of 70s/80s punk rock. Whether grouching through Woodstock ?99 like a droll pessimist uncle, or flaneuring in the fringes of a squatter riot in Tompkins Square Park; whether writing about Victor Hugo or Bob Dylan, Tintin or heroin, Sante surveys the matter at hand with undefeated elegance. “Kill all your darlings,” said William Faulkner. “Murder your darlings,” said Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch. “Read over your compositions,” said Dr. Johnson, “and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out.” Vanities mastered, tics unwound, hobbyhorses put out to pasture: is it possible? If you?re Luc Sante, it appears to be very possible indeed.