No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Sunday, July 01, 2007

#25: Shooting Elvis: Confessions of an Accidental Terrorist -- Robert Eversz

"I don't have any experience writing things down. I like to take photographs. That's how I see things." That's the opening line, and it's deceptive, like so much in this novel.

Mary Anne Baker, the narrator of Shooting Elvis, is an all-American girl: matching lipstick and nail-polish, blue-collar family, difficult relationship with her father, working as a photographer at a Baby Photo Studio, having an off-again-on-again relationship with Wrex who -- with his leather jacket, tattoos and piercings -- knows 'how to accessorise danger'.

Then Wrex asks her to drop off a parcel at LAX, and everything changes.

Mary Anne Baker, responsible for blowing up a major international airport, is no more. She's become Nina Zero, post-punk bohemian chick, one step ahead of the law and trying desperately to find out what the hell is going on, and what's so important about the heavy black suitcase she's acquired. (A stolen artwork is involved, though the piece in question is never named -- there are plenty of hints though.)

Nina falls in with Cass, an artist and scriptwriter, whose interest in her is not wholly altruistic. "If I bring you in I'll get first shot at the script, maybe get a chance to direct... It's what all the really interesting criminals are doing now. Television movies."

The novel's about role-playing, reinventing yourself, acting ("we think we can get Madonna to play you") and art. Nina's voice comes across very clearly despite that disclaimer at the beginning: bad grammar, Valley-girl idiom, honest and wry. And her reinvention isn't skin-deep: only once she's come to terms with who she was can she face up to who she is.

The novel was written in 1996: it seems like another era, a pre-9/11 world, where blowing up an airport is -- well, not quite a minor offense, but more akin to a Hollywood movie than a news report.

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