As the temperature drops and you’ve just read a book that weighs practically 10 pounds and has “Fire” in the title it is really hard not to make some sort of pun. All joking aside though, I’m pretty proud of myself for finishing Garth Risk Hallberg’s 900 page debut novel City on Fire. It is also important to note that I am by no means a fast reader or have an abundance of free time, this book is just that good.
Okay, I’ll admit it. I sort of cheated. I listened to the audiobook via Overdrive in conjunction with reading the book. I work more than 40 hours a week sometimes, I’m in Graduate School, and I still value my social life, so reading has a tendency to move toward the back of my priority list. However I came up with a sort of clever way of making sure that I still get my literature on while keeping all my other plates spinning. I’ll listen to the audiobook on my phone when I can and switch over to the book-book when I’ve got the time to curl up. Whether its while I walk to work, cooking up some delicious foods, or drawing I’m always amazed the amount of time I can fill with audiobook listening time. At the end of the day though my love for the printed word can not be squashed even in the name of convenience.
Enough on my time saving tips though. If you do decide to take on this beast of a book, I urge you to at least look at the book. Hallberg does some interesting and unique things with the text of the “Interlude” chapters that you’ll rather miss out on if you just listen to the audiobook. One of these is in the form of a zine, while another yet is an email. While very few people will be willing to sink their teeth into 900 pages, there really is no time like late fall and early winter. Additionally the book is written in the form of point of view chapters, so instead of reading one 900 page long book, it is more like reading nine one hundred page long book. The first person point of view(s), the visuals crafted with words, and the setting of New York City reminded me a lot of Jonathan Safran Foer’s Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, which I also really enjoyed. Aside from the astounding achievement of weaving together so many different characters’ stories, this book also has a little bit of many genres.
Give it a try at least, even if Maureen Corrigan didn’t like the ending.