Review of No Man’s Brooklyn in this week’s edition of the Taos News, as well as an interview about the novel, growing up in Brooklyn, and the writing life.
No Man’s Brooklyn
by John Biscello
CSF Publishing (2021, 164 pp.)
“Anya, a ghost from my past life who had been more alive in my heart than perhaps anyone else.”
Narrator Daniel Trovato’s life, at 37, has been filled with “Anya-agains.” A writer living in Los Angeles, Daniel has written about the troubled Anya – his childhood friend from Bensonhurst, Brooklyn – obsessively in his work. “Anya, who in varied incarnations I had loved and killed off in many different ways in different stories. Yet I always resurrected her, or parts of her, through the recycled guises of other women.”
Now Daniel, sober three years and gaining a kind of cult following from his graphic novel The Sworn Witness, receives the news that Anya has died, probably by overdose.
His old friend from Bensonhurst, Charlie, one of the so-called Dirtbags of the Universe, as the guys called themselves, delivers the news by phone: “But f– up people do f– up shit,” Charlie says. “That’s just the way it goes.”
For Daniel, the news is shocking, yes, but complicated, as it brings up unresolved feelings both about Anya, whom he loved although they could never quite make it as a couple, and his own mother, who also died by overdose when he was a young teenager. He is sure his mother died by suicide, but his gruff, hard-drinking dad, Louie, won’t hear of it.
Daniel resolves to return to Brooklyn, for the first time in 10 years, ostensibly for a comic book convention in New York. But he is revisiting the scene of the crime, as it were, his Bensonhurst neighborhood. The slender novel sways delicately between the memories of the past – involving Anya, always – and navigating the coarse interactions with his old pals from the Italian Catholic ‘hood and his unlovely father.
Is Daniel looking for Anya, or for himself? Taos author and poet John Biscello (“Nocturne Variations”, “Moonglow on Mercy Street”, etc.) endows narrator Daniel with a Holden Caulfield kind of guilelessness and sincerity, and it becomes increasingly clear that he is much like the Sworn Witness character of his graphic novel, merely a voice, a bodiless observer inhabited by shadows.
Read the full review here.
And the interview.