The world is ending, a slow and inexorable apocalypse on the horizon. But Michelle is too drunk and drugged up to notice the changes. She’s too busy living her life from drama to drama, each incident a mess of her own making. Michelle is writer of some renown. She shares the same name with the author of the actual book (how Kathy Acker) which gives the book a frisson: are we being asked to work out fact from fiction? Michelle and her friends inhabit an American sub-culture that seems both thrilling and futile; spoken word contests, lesbians on drugs, and pool playing in bars – glimpses of Michelle’s life before she decides to get out of the city and head elsewhere. If the book was set in 2018, Michelle and her friends would be hanging out in coffee bars and gentrified apartment blocks rather than grimy post-eighties/early nineties San Francisco.
Black Wave takes some time, unfurling gradually, but it’s that rare thing: a literary novel that’s compulsively readable, and the reader is rewarded for their patience. For a book about the end of the world, it’s funny. Sometimes I didn’t know whether to scream or laugh, but I erred on the side of laughter.
Ultimately, this is a book about a woman on a journey. It just happens that the reader gets to join the trip.
Details: I bought this book at Waterstones in Sauchiehall Street, Glasgow. It was published by And Other Stories. The cover art for this British edition is wonderful, a proper throwback to the Riot Grrl ‘zines of the early 1990s. Don’t buy any other edition. This is the one. Ideally, you should buy your books in your local book shop. If not then you can buy it online.