10) A good opening sentence is like a good punch in the face. The opening sentence of Maxwell Neely-Cohen’s Echo of the Boom is 20 perfect syllables.
They were all born after the fall of the wall but before the fall of the towers.
In my reading the cadence matches “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.” Even if you don’t stick around for 456 pages (you should) that first line will make your stomach drop enough to keep you reading through the first section.
9) We mentioned this in a previous post but this book as an object is beautiful. I’ve struck out finding any information about the book designers online and while I vaguely remember Neely-Cohen mentioning something in the acknowledgements, I don’t have my copy of the book on hand to double check and give proper credit.
8) If I had the motivation, I would draw a Venn diagram that shows the overlap between literary adults and people who love Gossip Girl and you would see that the overlap is significant. This book is for those of us in that union area. The novel won’t appeal to everyone but it will appeal to those who like their high art with a side of high school drama.
7) The Washington D.C. setting is brilliantly played, particularly in the Chloe storyline at LeMay Senior High School. D.C. is such a weird and interesting place; in terms of its non-grid European style layout and and its hyperbolic demographics. D.C. is employed as a setting in political fiction all the time but the life of its non-political residents is just as crazy as the happenings on the Hill. Neely-Cohen employs both the physical geography and the demographics to great effect and the book will have you thinking about D.C. just as much as Frank Underwood ever did.
6) In reviews I’ve read for Echo of the Boom, Neely-Cohen has been criticized for under-developing his four main characters. One reviewer mentioned that they felt more able to empathize with the supporting cast of characters than with the headliners. I understand that criticism but it makes me highlight how rich and wonderful that supporting cast of characters is. The Effram storyline in particular benefits from well drawn players like Raj and Asshole Joe who were a pleasure to get to know, and in the knowing, revealed a great deal about Effram himself.
5) Hip hop. Reviewers keep saying that this book effectively deals with technology and this is rare and important but I think we should focus on how well the novel deals with hip hop and how rare and important the use of that musical genre is in contemporary fiction. Each section begins with an epigraph quoting the book of Revelations and a (usually) hip hop song lyric. The music and text intertwine more closely in the closing section when the novel addresses hip hop norms directly and adopts the cadence and flow of that musical style in doing so. When present becomes past and historians grapple to understand this period in which we are living, hip hop will remain as one of the few true documents of urban life in North America and I’m baffled that this isn’t a fact that is better acknowledged. A$AP Rocky understands more about life in cities in America than Frank Bruni every will and if the New York Times won’t recognize that, at lease Neely-Cohen did.
4) Speaking of that last section of the book.
FUCK IT. LET IT BURN.
Another face punch. Fewer syllables this time.
3) Hemingway would hate this book. Like I said, it’s not for everyone. The descriptive language in particular would have driven my man Ernest crazy and might drive you crazy but if you don’t acknowledge that it’s interesting and maybe brilliant; you sir, are a liar.
2) Amidst the bizarre occurrences and bordering-on-sociopath personalities there are moments of emotion to which I was able to relate and in at least one instance, left me profoundly sad. When a character known as The Savage wishes out loud that she had come across a real friend earlier in her life you’ll remember the sheer despair that being a teenager breeds, no matter your current age.
1) This is an imperfect book. It’s fast and then slow and sometimes the description feels over-wrought. But who cares? Neely-Cohen’s voice is inhumanly confident considering he is a first-time writer and I’m so excited for him and his book to get the attention they deserve, and to read his future offerings. Echo of the Boom is an excellent debut novel, an excellent contemporary novel, an excellent piece of experimental fiction that is somehow only ranked 106,000 on Amazon’s listing and is not even available from my public library. Please be a participant in correcting these problems.