Originally posted on BookPeople’s Blog:
Hailing from Greenville, North Carolina comes debut author Garth Risk Hallberg with City on Fire. An ambitious first novel that has already made headlines, City on Fire is a testament to Hallberg’s unprecedented skill and determination. Hallberg will be speaking and signing in our store Thursday, October 22nd at 7pm.
Set in 1970s New York, City on Fire takes you on a journey through the city lighting up the downtown punk-rock scene, the shadowy side of fortunes, the depths of love and friendship, and what anyone has to do with a shooting one New Year’s Eve.
Hallberg has always had a crush on New York, a romanticized vision that kept swirling around in his mind. It was riding a greyhound into the city watching the skyline and listening to Billy Joel’s song “Miami 2017” that he got the idea for the novel.
“In the song, it seemed to me that the ghosts of these possibilities—of this messy, funky, ruinous, dangerous, alive, passionate, hopeful, meaningful, creative place that was New York in the seventies—had magically transmitted themselves out to all points of the map and sustained generations of teenagers since. And once again, we were in a conversation about the relative merits of freedom and security, risk and vulnerability. The whole book came to me in the space of that song, like a supernova in my brain.” – Garth Risk Hallberg
When he and his wife moved there in 2004 the stage was already set, the words began pouring out onto a thousand pages. Hallberg had had the idea for City on Fire for two years before writing it officially took off. After five years the product was completed and is one of the most anticipated debut novels this fall.
What our booksellers are saying about the novel:
Raul: “Novels like this one come along very rarely – a magnificent and brilliant work encompassing so much and in such depth that the investment of reading all nine hundred pages seems so small for the great reward afterward. Illustrating the vast range of human experience, Hallberg’s novel captures the seventies in the city of New York with great imagination: the burning boroughs, the rise of punk rock, the blackouts, the rise and fall of financiers, the buzz and the noise. It is a city poised for great change and to incorporate such a compelling story filled with equally compelling and vivid characters is a fantastic achievement. Well rounded and distinct, each character is a microcosm of the bigger world they live in or endure as circumstances warrant. From the shooting in Central Park that sets the story in motion to the dramatic climax during the lawless blackout in the city proper, Hallberg’s characters move in seamless ambles that cross paths and mingle in unexpected ways. Truly a vast and panoramic work that should win praise and prizes in the coming year.”
Consuelo: “I’ve been in the mood lately for big novels I can lose myself in, and City on Fire did not disappoint. It strikes a balance between plot and character that propels the reader forward, until you realize 900 pages have already gone by. Not only did I lose myself in the elaborate story, but also New York City as it leaped off the page. Garth Risk Hallberg has turned out a superb debut novel on every level.”
What the critics are saying about the novel:
Entertainment Weekly: “It’s hard to believe this layered New York epic is a debut: The glitter and grime of the city’s punk heyday are captured in gorgeous detail as multiple stories converge.”
Bookforum: “Engrossing . . . When the city goes dark, [it] is like A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Manhattan edition . . . As in the fiction of Saul Bellow, Hallberg’s heroes are theorists of their own universe . . . Every ley line is a life story, every subplot a window on a New York niche . . . The story itself is dramatic, intermixing a police procedural with a terrorist plot, an addiction plot, an art plot, various adultery plots . . . The result is a narrative that is immense.”
Booklist: “Completely engrossing . . . This magnificent first novel is full to bursting with plot, character, and emotion, all set within an exquisitely grungy 1970s New York City . . . Graceful in execution, hugely entertaining, and most concerned with the longing for connection, a theme that reaches full realization during the blackout of 1977, this epic tale is both a compelling mystery and a literary tour de force.”
Kirkus Reviews: “A remarkably assured, multivalent tale . . . an epic panorama of musicians, writers, and power brokers and the surprising ways they connect . . . At times the novel feels like a metafictional tribute to America’s finest doorstop manufacturers, circa 1970 to the present: Price (street-wise cops), Wolfe (top-tier wealth), Franzen (busted families), Wallace (the seductions of drugs and pop culture), and DeLillo (the unseen forces behind everything) . . . As his various plotlines braid tighter during the July 1977 blackout, his novel becomes an ambitious showpiece for just how much the novel can contain without busting apart.”