Adam Langer – Mind Mangler
Oh boy, oh boy, The Salinger Contract is a thoroughly, obsessively, compulsively page turning read, combining the elements of crime fiction, with a blistering, surgically precise picking apart of the publishing industry, small-town academia and, even more deliciously, a tangly, knotted, play with literature itself.
The problem for any reviewer is that to unpick any of this is to spoil a potential reader’s journey. So I won’t!
Just be aware that the central character and narrator is a writer with one book to his credit, a house-husband with a writer’s block, a good marriage and a wife in academia. He has a tenuous friendship with, and admiration for, with another writer, who has been successful but is now on a downward trajectory. Both admire hugely that writer whose book was inspiration, for good and ill, to so many young men (and women) at a certain stage in their lives – Catcher In The Rye. Salinger and other writers, Mailer, Harper Lee stalk the pages.
The literature obsessed are likely to enjoy the author’s mind games with his readers the most, but even if you have never read The Catcher In The Rye, To Kill A Mockingbird or any books by any of the real writers within these pages, this is still likely to be a hugely enjoyable and entertaining read.
Real and imaginary writers stalk through these pages, and the reader will often be hard-pressed to tell the difference, and be sent scrambling for google to search which of the literary legends are the figments of Langer’s fertile imaginings
Given what is trending (Trending! Oh dear, oh dear) on best seller lists at the moment, some of the most fantastical creations seem unfortunately likely to be real. UK readers may particularly welcome (or not) something here. I’m afraid Mr Langer has left me like someone who has been told the most juicy piece of gossip they know they MUSN’T tell (a spoiler) but they really really want to tell someone. Perhaps someone could bring out an ‘I have read The Salinger Contract’ T-shirt, so that if we spot someone wearing this we could go into a huddle and exchange views, theories and best moments!
There is one particular volte-face section where I really thought he was going to lose my interest and I had an ‘oh – is this a clever too far moment – (and I’m still not sure what the answer is) – but he certainly picked up the threads again deftly. It may not, in the end, be quite as fully five star as I hoped, but, near as dammit!
I am now definitely going to visit Langer’s back catalogue.
I received this as an ARC from the publisher, – and what a teasing, tempting, satisfying literary feast it proved to be.
Clever Mr Langer – but, this is really not writing which is purely self-referential and self-congratulatory to those who recognise the allusions – I got some, am sure I missed many – there is that wonderful, page turning, WHAT HAPPENS NEXT which bites the reader hard and won’t let go. A fabulous heist!