This swift and unnerving fever-dream of a novella, Duchovny’s fifth work of fiction, is saturated with mythic and literary allusions and shaped by resonant riffs on Poe and Mann. At once philosophical and suspenseful, grandly imaginative and sharply funny, this mind-bending story of delusion and longing is a dark reflection of New York’s countless crimes and tragedies and much-tested resilience, emblematic of the suffering and tenacity of all of humanity.
A study of how internal concerns curdle into outward, tragic compulsions—particularly during an epidemic—the novel is a clear tribute to Thomas Mann’s classic Death in Venice; Duchovny cites it in the acknowledgments, quotes it in an epigraph, and introduces a homeless character wearing an army jacket labeled “Mann.” But Duchovny isn’t simply tracing over Mann’s plotlines and themes. Concerns about the distancing of technology, the shortcomings of the modern male ego, the fear of being out of touch, and the awkward push and pull of parenthood are all his own, and though the story is straightforward, it neatly captures Ridley’s slow decline in evocative, chilly prose that wouldn’t be out of place in a late Don DeLillo novel. Like his previous novels Bucking F*cking Dent (2016) and Miss Subways (2018), it’s a love letter to Duchovny’s native New York. But it’s also a smart story about obsession ... A slim, compelling tale of a man on the brink.
Duchovny effortlessly brings readers inside the mind of a retired Wall Streeter struggling to find purpose during the Covid-19 pandemic ... The unpredictable plot twists never overwhelm the depiction of a flawed, lonely guy trying to maintain sanity in the midst of a world on pause. This intelligent effort further burnishes Duchovny’s status as a gifted novelist.