Suspension: A Novel

Suspension: A Novel

5.0 3
by Robert Westfield
     
 

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A dazzling, remarkably original dark comedy about a young New Yorker's failed attempts to isolate himself in a city that won't take solitude for an answer

For years it's been Andy Green's job to stump students nationwide by coming up with the wrong answers for their multiple-choice tests. Recently, however, his own life has become

Overview

A dazzling, remarkably original dark comedy about a young New Yorker's failed attempts to isolate himself in a city that won't take solitude for an answer

For years it's been Andy Green's job to stump students nationwide by coming up with the wrong answers for their multiple-choice tests. Recently, however, his own life has become overwhelmed by wrong choices. When a love affair is mysteriously ended by a Post-it note and followed up by a random street assault, Andy locks himself in his Hell's Kitchen apartment. In solitude, he thinks, he might be able to get a grip on his life. But when he is forced to reemerge six months after the attacks of September 11, the city awaiting him is more bewildering than ever and all the people in his world seem to be part of a vast conspiracy.

Equal parts noir, French farce, and homage to New York, Suspension is a surprisingly heartfelt novel about learning to live in a world where nearly everything is decided behind our backs.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Had it been set anywhere but New York City, Westfield's raucous debut would be viewed as an absurdist tale, but in the shadow of 9/11 and bolstered by Westfield's accessible prose, it's a striking portrait of life in the Big Apple. Andy Green, a Hell's Kitchen denizen, pays the rent by writing tricky multiple-choice questions for an educational testing service and soon finds himself quasi-managing the floundering cabaret career of his Russian emigre friend, Sonia Obolensky. One night, while attending her crummy cabaret show, Andy becomes smitten with Sonia's new mentor, Brad Willet. Young, handsome and independently wealthy, Brad devotes himself to worthy causes, prompting Andy to do the same. But when Brad abruptly cuts Andy off, he dives into a downward spiral that's exacerbated by a hate crime and 9/11. Andy goes off the deep end and doesn't leave his apartment for months. Though the reader will likely be ahead of Andy in figuring out that both Sonia and Brad are not who they appear to be (the answer lies in a surprising backstory set in Michigan a generation ago), Andy's story is a wild one. (Aug.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Gay-bashing, 9/11, free-floating paranoia and fanaticism make pretty grim ingredients for a comedy, however dark, but this ambitious debut ably wrests smart laughs from terror. Take-out cartons and dirty socks pile up, but Andy Green won't leave his Big Apple apartment. And who can blame him? Months before, he'd been rendered pulp; his sister's fiance, a klutzy magician from Texas, got it even worse-the pair were victims, they suppose, of a hate crime. Westfield, a playwright and New York tour guide, makes Green very much the mod gay Manhattanite, with his quirky low-wage job penning multiple-choice tests, his exotic, histrionic gal pal, the ultra-Russian Sonia, and his dashing sugar daddy, princely philanthropist Brad. Refugee from both Maryland and a vengeful, Bible-spouting mom, Andy's drunk on the city, and some of the best writing here comes in the form of a Twin Towers elegy: bitter railing at touristy kitsch that exploits the tragedy, wistful yearning for what was lost. The cataclysm provides the psychic centerpiece-after the planes crash, Andy's world dive-bombs. The story crosses whodunit-unraveling the mystery behind Andy's attack, as well as uncovering the murderous past of a tour guide who menaces Green-and comedy of manners, offering a hip catalogue of urban misadventure and malaise. Creaky comic staples-mistaken identities, a major plot point hinging on Sonia's mispronunciations-intrude, but Westfield keeps things moving with snappy dialogue and wry character descriptions (his sister, for example, is a Sex and the City wannabe, "hence the sex talk, the shopping, the shawl, the never having enough shoes"). As in French farce, an awful lot happens-Brad's disappearance, Andy'sre-emergence from his "cave," his sister's run-in, in a mouse outfit, with a pizzeria manager-and the frantic pace feels very up-to-the-New-York-minute. A head-spinning romp, a bit overstuffed with twists and turns.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780062010773
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
05/11/2010
Sold by:
HARPERCOLLINS
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
304
File size:
360 KB

Read an Excerpt

Suspension
A Novel

Chapter One

November 2001

Just until the swelling goes down. That was how long I intended to stay home. Until I could see out of my left eye, until my lower lip closed up. Until all the cuts scabbed over and faded into pale scars. Until I could bend the joints in the two small fingers of my left hand without feeling pain shoot up to my neck. Once the physical injuries healed, though, I still had the anxiety, the guilt, the shame, and then the creeping realization that not leaving my apartment was easier than I expected. It was on a Saturday morning in August, with my palms scraped raw, my two fingers in a splint, and my knees taped in bloody bandages, that I slowly pulled myself up the two steep flights to my small one-bedroom in Hell's Kitchen, closed the door behind me, and quietly turned the locks—click, clack, click—and it wasn't until November that anyone mentioned my absence. That person was Sonia Obolensky, my friend and tormentor.

I should point out that I used to be thrilled by Sonia's blazing tirades. I listened to her rants and watched her shake her fists as if I were sitting in the front row at the opening of the Moscow Art Theater's American tour. Whenever she ripped her blondish hair loose in an explosive moment of ferocity, her tiny teeth gnashing the air, her blue eyes swelling out of their sockets, I wanted to stand up and cheer, invoke endless curtain calls, and throw long-stemmed roses at her petite feet. By that November, however, I suspected that I'd endured the full repertoire and wondered when she would take her show to Chicago and free up the theater for something new.

Istill did my best as a friend. When she was fired from her coat-check job at Orso and came to me in tears of rage, I told her I was glad she lost the job. I was honestly relieved that rainy days could now pass by without gleeful squeals of "Umbrellas, umbrellas!" That Sonia would find such euphoria from a few extra wrinkled dollars pressed into her hand while she stood for hours in a box stuffed with dripping trench coats and the suffocating smell of wet wool made me uneasy. As one of the first Americans Sonia met, I felt responsible for all of her setbacks, so it was with increasing frustration that I watched her bounce through a never-ending series of very odd jobs. At times I used humor to help her climb back up on her troika, but making a joke about Sonia's life was a game of Russian roulette.

Sonia had been fired from her eighty-sixth job in the city and was trying her hands at massage; the thought occurred to me, as I lay naked, smeared in oil, and wrapped in a sheet on her folding table, that she was now literally inches away from turning tricks. In hindsight, I should not have voiced the observation. I felt her fingers freeze on my thigh. Then her palm slapped my back. She began noisily packing up her assorted oils and rubbing manuals, leaving my left leg untouched and my right one overworked. Already on edge, I was now lopsided and greasy, unprepared for what she said next.

"And you're mean and spiteful!"

"Sonia, I'm sorry. You know it was just a joke." I was still facedown on the table, my face in the rubber doughnut. "Please do my left leg."

"No! Absolutely no!"

I stared for a few moments at the faded blue carpeting three feet below me. The massage, I knew, was a lost cause, but I still had a chance of letting her fire burn out if I could deprive her of added fuel.

She moved on without my help. "And your apartment stinks and you're lazy."

"My apartment stinks?"

"It has no air. You never leave. You stay here twenty-four and seven."

I sat up, tying my sheet in a knot around my waist, and said, "Twenty-four-seven. No and." This was a sore point between us, and the only thing I could think of to distract her.

"Twenty-four AND seven!" she retaliated. "You never leave."

"What do you mean I never leave?" I tried to laugh it off.

"And what do I mean? You never leave this place. What are you doing here? You mockery me but what do you do?"

"What?" was the best I could muster. I added, "Where?"

"Here! What are you doing here? This stinky room?"

"It does not stink."

"Like one thousand socks! What are you doing? Tell me."

"I am thinking!" I blurted out. Sonia laughed and spat out something in Russian. I made a show of wiping my face of her spray, sliding two fingers firmly over the contours of cheek and chin. She wasn't shaken. I modified my answer: "I'm writing."

"O, Mr. Twain, Dostoevsky!"

"Stop spitting on me."

"Present me your work, so grand."

I had nothing to present her, since I wasn't a writer and only said so because it was a marginally better answer than "I am thinking." Sonia waited. She looked down, her arms folded, her jaw clenched. The residual oil from her hands spotted her bright orange T-shirt. The air was pulsating, I could hear the second hand ticking on her watch. I opened my mouth and then closed it, exhaling through my nose. The silence was uncomfortable but speech was impossible. My throat was contracting.

"Well?" asked Sonia.

"Well, what?"

"Where is your grand think-piece?"

"I'm not showing you. You can read it when it's published."

She held her oily hands up in front of her, palms forward, then back, and then forward again, to remind me of the full extent of her labor-filled life.

"How do you make money?" she asked.

"I have the same job I've always had."

"And you don't go to job!"

"I work from home."

"And they let you do this? How is this thing possible?"

Suspension
A Novel
. Copyright © by Robert Westfield. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Robert Westfield received his degree in theater and English from Columbia University. As a playwright, he was the writer-in-residence for the Working Group. He lives in New York.

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Suspension 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Robert Westfield takes the reader on an intriguing journey into the life and the mind of a New Yorker after 9/11. Mr. Westfield's writing style hooks the reader and leads us down many paths in a way that keeps you thinking and keeps you reading. I cannot wait for Mr. Westfield's next novel. He is, most definitely, a very promising new writer!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a non-stop, madcap race through 21st century New York City. Head-on collisions with one's own fears about a sense of self, all the while making the reader bust a gut at the hilarity of urban life. This is a voice who will navigate our uncertain times with wit and compassion. Thank you.
Guest More than 1 year ago
While reading Suspension I started to think that I too had been hiding out since 9/11 unable to move forward. As with any wonderful book Suspension allows its reader not only to experience the joy and sorrow of the characters but to re-examine his life as well. I was grateful after the noir decent to be taken back to the world of the living and the world of hope. I felt taken care of by Westfield while he took me on a tour of his psyche and his incredible cast of likable,hilarious and human characters. a wonderful ride. I just started to read it again.