Monday, December 12, 2005

CIRCUIT by T.C. Gardstein (Xlibris)

Many months ago, I got a one-liner email from someone recommending a book called CIRCUIT by T.C. Gardstein. I didn't give it much thought since I typically get at least 15 of these a day, but for whatever reason the title stuck with me.

A few days ago, I was actually contacted by the author who wanted to submit the book for review. I figured it was sort of serendipitous (or synchronicity, as the author suggested) so I gave it a look.

What a good move.

CIRCUIT is your basic coming-of-age story, which happens to be a genre (or sub-genre) that appeals to me. It is a literary journey (not science fiction as the cover suggests) that steps through the life of Nancy Roth, told partly by Nancy herself and partly through an omniscient third party. The novels begins in 1991 and alternates between Nancy's college days and her icy childhood/adolescence, page by page bringing the elements of her life together, exposing who she is and the choices she has made--and the decisions that face her in college and the distractions of her boyfriend.

T.C. really captures the longings of youth and the ultimate ennui and disappointment that result, the teenage images and events that begin to shape the rest of our adult lives:

I tune back in to my father, who is saying something about how scholastic achievement and scoring high on the college boards would help my self-esteem, and I immediately get depressed. The lecture is not about sex but I start thinking about it. I did it, had sex, for the first time yesterday, with this boy I'd been seeing for only a month. Yesterday was the first day of spring; I guess it'll be easy to remember the date.

I always wanted my first time to have a lightning storm outside, with Ravel or maybe Indian sitar music playing in the background, but instead it was drizzling, and there was a corny black-and-white movie on the TV. We had moved the bed against the door because Lowell's mother and the maid were downstairs, probably speculating on the nature of our relationship. In the middle of it all, we had a fight about protection which I won because I told him I wouldn't go on otherwise. That'd be just my luck, to get pregnant the first time. After it was over, we got dressed and walked into town. It had started to rain harder, but Lowell wanted to hang out at the Dr. Video arcade. He ran into a couple of his video junkie friends and totally blew me off for the rest of the afternoon. All around me were nonstop quarters slipping into slots, contralto blips and tinny explosions, frogs and space aliens and muscled warriors drowning and dissolving and karate-chopping into infinity.

If you loved BRIGHT LIGHTS, BIG CITY (or any other Jay MacInerney novel, minus the roman a clef infusion), you will love CIRCUIT. And here is another sign that this is an excellent novel: The characters are still with me now.

One other note: this title was published by Xlibris back in 2000, which is arguably one of their initial titles. Had this book been published by Random House, it would likely be out of print now. Take advantage of POD and grab this one now.