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Those Who Knew From the award winning author of Ways to Disappear, a taut, timely novel about what a powerful politician thinks he can get away with and the group of misfits who finally bring him downOn an unnamed island country ten years after the collapse of a US supported regime, Lena suspects the powerful senator she was involved with back in her student activist days is taking advantage of a young woman who s been introducing him at rallies When the young woman ends up dead, Lena revisits her own fraught history with the senator and the violent incident that ended their relationshipWhy didn t Lena speak up then, and will her family s support of the former regime still impact her credibility What if her hunch about this young woman s death is wrong What follows is a riveting exploration of the cost of staying silent and the mixed rewards of speaking up in a profoundly divided country Those Who Knew confirms Novey s place as an essential new voice in American fiction Let me begin with my ending Idra Novey s Those Who Knew is beautiful, classically shaped, compulsively readable, an all too relevant exploration of the moral and ethical conundrums of our troubled times, as lavishly wrought as poetry, rendered in sensational, moving prose, a page turner work of art, layered, like prescient pentimento Get your hands on a copy of Those Who Knew as soon as you can, move it to the top of your TBR pile, and glory in it And be warned, you ll find yourself re readin Let me begin with my ending Idra Novey s Those Who Knew is beautiful, classically shaped, compulsively readable, an all too relevant exploration of the moral and ethical conundrums of our troubled times, as lavishly wrought as poetry, rendered in sensational, moving prose, a page turner work of art, layered, like prescient pentimento Get your hands on a copy of Those Who Knew as soon as you can, move it to the top of your TBR pile, and glory in it And be warned, you ll find yourself re reading and underlining and discovering new colors and richnesses every time.I don t want to bury the lede in a gushing paean about the genius of Idra Novey and the compelling, convulsive brilliance of Those Who Knew, so I ll start by saying this is a novel that tears into the scariest, most alarming layers of the post November 2016 Zeitgeist using provocatively imaginative plotting told in gloriously structured prose and form, somehow shaping a story in the classic style while making it, too, as current and titillating and terrifying as the improbable nightmare reality show hell that is now masquerading as real life as limned by the nightly news.Long short or, rather, short before I get to the long No matter what kind of reader you are lover of literary fiction, fan of fast paced thriller mysteries, poetry, current events Idra Novey effortlessly packs them all into less than 250 artfully composed pages, fulfilling the promise of her first novel, Ways to Disappear, proving herself to be one of our most gifted and essential writers Precisely a week after the death of Maria P was declared an accident, a woman reached into her tote bag and found a sweater inside that didn t belong to her Thus begins the novel, Lena finds this sweater, and is unable to shed it And then, perhaps because she had once risked her life in a similar garment and still regarded that time as the pivotal aspect of who she was, she lifted the sweater over her head and pulled it on Lena doesn t want to be burdened by the sweater nor by what she suspects is the truth about Maria P s death, but like a tattoo on the soul, Lena knows she can t erase what she knows or what that knowing and her past have made of her, and so, she puts the sweater on.Most people know there is a credibility gap between the people we wish to be or wish to appear to be and the truth of who we are, and in the current toxically divisive environment, the magnitude of that gap we ve come to expect and accept as normal has grown catastrophically, monstrously vast.Idra Novey s new novel, Those Who Knew click here for website , is a profoundly insightful and richly, intricately tessellated exploration about how we rationalize sins of compromise and silence, excuse our own complicity in the undermining of the social contract and civility, and how, by doing so, we tacitly sanction continued corruption and crime committed by those in power who exploit, abuse, and calculatedly oppress and demonize those members of society already marginalized and disadvantaged by gender identity, race, socio economic stratum, sexual identity, and other class identifiers.But Those Who Knew isn t an exercise in polemical hyperbole it s a reasoned, all too believable glimpse into the lives, minds, and relationship dynamics of those in power who abuse that power, and those others on the periphery or outside who are afraid to, unwilling to, or unable to stop the rot Too, the novel explores those ways in which people become complicit in the spread of the immorality epidemic, committing or allowing repugnant acts and behavior and excusing them by citing the greater good, which, all too often, means benefit and enrichment for me and those like me Lena s discovery of the sweater which looks just like one worn in newspaper photos by Maria P whose death we learned in the novel s first paragraph was declared accidental seems to Lena a message from the dead girl who had worked with Victor, a senator and champion of liberal causes who, as a young activist, had been involved with Lena and in a rage, violently assaulted her She had a sweater, then, much like the one of Maria P s which somehow has shown up in her bag.We follow Lena s struggle with what to reveal of what she knows, how to determine what is knowledge and what is intuition or suspicion, and how to navigate those spaces between is and might be, truth and spin, day to day practical reality and wished for Utopia, and what is her responsibility in these matters Lena, now a university instructor, confides in Olga, a former revolutionary who witnessed the torture of her fellow revolutionary lover, S, to whom she now writes daily journals while she operates a bookstore dealing in the used volumes that were buried literally and figuratively during Olga s revolutionary years when rule of this un named country was hijacked by a dictatorial fascist sort, Cato And, quietly, Olga also deals pot from the bookstore, a structure without running water, no internet, and spotty phone coverage Hold on, Olga said into her cordless phone, I can t hear you I m back in Poetry Her reception was far better up in Conspiracy, near the front windows She could hear clearly enough at the register, too, where she rang up the occasional book and, yes, also sold a formidable amount of weed That passage contains a multitude of carefully shaped impressions, its language evocative of a mood, a place, a person absolutely specific, and its concluding few words sold a formidable amount of weed in juxtaposition with the earlier rang up the occasional book are so stunningly right.Idra Novey writes with the precision and care of a poet, able in a few carefully chosen words to convey what would take others witness me spending 900 words already and not yet adequately explaining how fantastic this book is many, many paragraphs if they ever managed to achieve it She combines efficiency and specificity with a luxuriance of language and imagery so well, it very nearly qualifies as sorcery.Olga is wary of Lena standing up to Victor, fearing the consequences Meanwhile, Victor is contriving a marriage with Cristina, the daughter of a power broker in his political party in order to distract from his connection to the dead girl, but besides Lena, Victor s own brother, Freddy, a gay playwright, has his own suspicions about Victor s culpability And from this cast of characters and others added along the way radiates a web of connections, complications, conspiracies of silence, deceits for reasons both good and not so good, and a labyrinth of loves, connections, relationships, resentments, desires, plots, grudges, and all the stuff of human interaction in a complicated society in a difficult age.But, again, I ve failed to convey the gift Idra Novey has for fashioning a remarkably compelling read, inside of which is a richness of metaphor, parallels, and extraordinary language.Pages 29 and 30 are a short section in which Victor escapes to a place where he feels safe, unencumbered, the docks, where real men shout at one another as they operate heavy machinery Only, this day, the docks are full of people who didn t belong there Women and teenagers.Doddering old men with binoculars He s informed the crowds have been attracted by a pair of whales, mating The man who tells him this has an eye that doesn t focus correctly, Victor is not up to dealing with peculiar faces right now and no expletive whales And from that beginning develops a blossoming of images a group of teenage boys eating chocolate bars a giant one of which makes an appearance in one of his brother s plays and talking about whale boners and the self revulsion this wakens in Victor, and the way it reminds him of his brother to whom it had been excruciating to stiffen and deny Freddy an answer, to will a growing distance , and much later in the novel Victor will end up on Freddy s couch, hiding an erection, and again travel to the docks, looking for escape but oncedisturbed by those who he believes don t belong, and he ll respond in a way disastrous, in an echo and expansion of this early scene, this two tight pages in which language repeats and escalates and doubles back on itself, full of whispers and hints of that which is below the surface.Like I said at the start, Idra Novey s writing is beautiful, classically shaped, compulsively readable, an all too relevant exploration of the moral and ethical conundrums of our troubled times, as lavishly wrought as poetry, rendered in sensational, moving prose, a page turner work of art, layered, like prescient pentimento Get your hands on a copy of Those Who Knew as soon as you can, move it to the top of your TBR pile, and glory in it And be warned, you ll find yourself re reading and underlining and discovering new colors and richnesses every time How did she stay true to the voices in her head as they led her into the fireAbuse of power comes in many forms and from many faces It s easy to recognize it in the actions of your opponents, but trickier to swallow when it is from those with whom you share an ideology This becomes another of the many ways abusers keep their victims silent Those Who Knew, the second novel from Idra Novey, opens with a possible murder of a young student activist at the hands of a popular up and coming polit How did she stay true to the voices in her head as they led her into the fireAbuse of power comes in many forms and from many faces It s easy to recognize it in the actions of your opponents, but trickier to swallow when it is from those with whom you share an ideology This becomes another of the many ways abusers keep their victims silent Those Who Knew, the second novel from Idra Novey, opens with a possible murder of a young student activist at the hands of a popular up and coming politician of the people in an unnamed island nation still recovering from decades of a violent, authoritarian dictatorship financially backed by the United States Lena, a former girlfriend of the young senator, was physically assaulted by him during her younger activists days and suspects foul play but quickly realizes how impractical speaking up may be The novel, written in short, urgent chapters that steam full speed ahead into the psychological maelstrom of politics, art and activism, is a powerful message on the difficulties of speaking out against abuse while simultaneously acknowledging the necessity of punching up by speaking truth to power This compact literary thriller delivers punch after punch through a playful narrative structure and large variety of voices as Novey makes us confront the difficulties of speaking out while accepting that monsters can lurk inside of any public hero, looks at the multitudes of ways victims are kept silent, and addresses the violent legacy of US foreign policy propping up dictatorships in Latin America.Novey writes with a directness that is as engaging as it is cutting A poet as well as a novelist and translator, Novey has exceptionally fluid prose and an ear for dialogue The language wonderfully washes over the reader with insightful asides and graceful storytelling all while moving rapidly forward Whilepsychologically insightful than plot driven, the plot is still fast paced and full of twists Each chapter is around two to three pages and readers will find themselves halfway through the novel before they realize they ve been clenching their jaws and holding their breath as Novey continuously turns the screws of tension The story unfolds through the experiences of a wide cast of characters, all with some proximity to Senator Victor M Principal among them are Lena, the focal character, who dated him in college until he strangled her to the point of near death Olga, her friend and the aging proprietor of a used bookstore named Seek the Sublime or Die who stays afloatfrom marijuana sales than books Victor s playwright brother Freddy who is writing a secret play about the unseemliness of his brother and Christina, Victor s fiance picked for political alliance and access to wealth and power Novey keeps the storytelling fresh by unveiling plot and exposition through interjections of news articles, scenes from Freddy s play, and the bookstore ledger, all of which move the story forward without feeling like a gimmick or overly heavy handed Kamila Shamsie employed a similar technique perhaps eveneffectively using social media as a sort of Greek Chorus in her exquisite novel Home Fire, and these post modernist approaches to narrative that show society interacting with the media and arts we encounter is an excellent examination of our times and political mechanisms Ours is the era of Cambridge Analytica and surveillance capitalism imbreeding with standard corporate marketing and this interplay of narrative forms perfectly puts the finger of literature on the pulse of modern politics and society Further, Freddy s reluctance to make his draft public since they speak out against his popular Senator brother serves both as an example of how those in power intimidate others into keeping quiet and mirrors the passages from the Olga chapters about how citizens would bury contraband books such as Marx during the dictatorship It s a bold statement on the power of the written word but also reflects that while the nation is free from authoritarianism, tyranny, it would seem, is still rampant Trauma made a kite of the mind and there was no telling what kind of wind might take hold of it Trauma is hidden in the roots beneath every twist and turn of Novey s powerful novel, from the personal to the national level At no point is the reader allowed to forget about the political climate on the island, befittingly so as the terrors of the now extinguished dictatorship have left scars on the whole of the populace There are characters such as Lena who had their coming of age throwing molotovs at cop cars and then there is Olga who watched her lover executed by the State while they were in prison for political activism Trauma is also weaponized by those in power to both shape their power and keep their enemies silent Victor has risen in public consciousness through his history of resistance against the trauma of the old regime and his efforts towards a social justice forward political platform His most prominent stance is free college tuition, which not only gives him a monopoly on the youth vote but also grants him access to their activist circles where he preys on Maria P., a college student he sleeps and inevitably throws in front of a bus in a fit of anger This is not a whodunnit his crimes are made plain in the opening few chapters though the motivations take a bit to process out as much as it is a what can be done about it novel How could he be both of these men, Lena asks herself about a man she personally knows to be an abuser but watches become a public political idol While Novey began writing this novel before the very necessary MeToo movement took on momentum, its release during it makes her examinations all theimportant to consider Victor is on the right side of history, politically, for this nation yet he is also an abuser His status as a public figure already makes speaking out against him difficult Lena acknowledges it will be seen as attention grabbing, that people will try to invalidate her because she didn t speak up before, or cast her as as some bitter ex girlfriend The final excuse is also embodies the way that misogyny and himpathy often lurk in many discreditations Wasn t this one of the ways women unraveled, Lena considers, they failed to marry at the expected age, they got lonelier, stuck on some ex lover s success while they remained trapped in one demoralizing position after another, their thoughts growing increasingly erratic and unhinged The fact that she is not a public success like Victor will be thrown against her as the public often is drawn to power and supports them instead of showing class solidarity However, the ultimate damnation in speaking out here is considering the way ad hominem attacks are so prevalent in discourse it means that outing Victor means undermining his political positions His rivals will weaponize it against the whole progressive movement in which he plays a key role While, yes, we must condemn the actions of members of our own political parties with the same fervor we do those of the opposition, it does raise the point of what it all entails Speaking out also has a nasty side effect of drawing attention to the accuser s personal life as a way of silencing them by demonizing them as if this had any bearing on the truth Lena s family were right wing industrialists who enjoyed prosperity and massive profits through their juice factories under the former, violent regime and the nation is primed for new faces to direct their anger at You know Victor will use your grandfather to discredit anything you claim, Olga warns her Lena must acknowledge the state of public opinion and how speaking out will consequently destroy her own family People were tired of rehashing the same familiar cast of villainsthey were hungry for other wealthy families who had yet to own up to their share of the blame It is a difficult truth to swallow, and one of the many failsafes power systems have of keeping people quiet Reader s eager for a novel of swift justice and heroic public outcry should look elsewhere, as this novel takes on a heavy realism that looks at the crushing realities that keep the system churning onward Justice might have to come later.Not only does Novey keep the trauma or dictatorship forefront in the reader s mind, she reminds US readers of their complicity in such atrocities The island nation is unnamed, allowing it to serve as an amalgamation for all the nations that faced the wrath of US foreign policy in the 70s and 80s Like the Northerners who have now come to the newly democratic island for tourist purposes such as the college aged American students thrilled to purchase used copies of Marx from Olga who acquired them after the regime fell and people dug up all the contraband books buried in their gardens Novey reminds readers that we are all tourists of sorts like these students by our taking thrills in political thrillers about such nations A particularly powerful moment is when Oscar, the American tourist, wakes to the news of 9 11 The contrast of how it affects him and those on the island, such as Lena, is striking and he cannot fathom how it can be as if it were any day at all in human history to people there What is brilliantly done here, however, is that the novel subverts the typical US centric gaze as the event is minor to the lives of those on the island If those people were dying anywhere but in your country, Lena confronts him when he is outraged she is going on eating breakfast as if it were any other day, would you have cared if I went on eating your scone I bet you wouldn t This may seem harsh, but, Lena wonders if his parents stopped drinking their coffee for even one second when his government supplied the trucks that round up Olga and thousands of others To shoot them down on the street Novey illuminates a parallel between Victor s public power and position suppressing the voices of his victims and the United States with foreign policy actions such as Operation Condor and implanting neoliberal dictatorship keeping left wing movements silent in their graves to maintain power over oil and mining industries of South America Lena, a Marxist, is throughout the novel representative of many ways voices are muzzled politically Beyond Victor is her work in public schools and her wealthy family s disdain for it They disbelieve media reports on poor conditions due to lack of funding to be overhyped and that any argument from Lena will be dismissed as propagated or misled regardless of Lena s authority on the subject Lena visits these schools as her job, yet her family essentially tells her that what she is experiencing simply is not how things are Her aunts drew the unflattering conclusions about the island s children that they wanted to draw anyways This is gaslighting, pure and simple, and this refusal to engage in any critical examination for reasons of holding on to power serves only as an oppressive tactic for silencing opponents whose voices badly need to be heard This is psychological warfare, and Lena is already victim to questioning her own reality due to stress What seems to possibly be magical realism of the murdered Maria s clothing showing up in Lena s possession might just actually be coincidence or Lena not noticing things before Novey does well by not taking that plot thread anywhere and instead leaving the reader to question reality the way those who are targets of manipulation tend to do Novey keeps the reader in an uncomfortable position for much of this novel but stepping out of our comfort zones is a way we can grow and better understand.This all may paint the novel as fairly bleak, but there is a hopeful side to it as well What is particularly charming is the way the novel represents art and literature as a hopeful rebellion Freddy s play, for instance, chronicles the truth about his brother in an abstract way to cut right to the heart of the matter It is implied near the end, especially as Victor is unraveling and his career is in free fall, that Freddy is shucking off the fear that is keeping his draft hidden Even if he never produces the play, those pages can still be found and bear witness to the awful truths This is also reflected in Olga, who keeps a diary of sorts in the store ledger where she talks to her now executed lover, a woman only mentioned as S Olga gives a copy of Anna Ahkmatova poetry to a college girl, telling her if she can memorize a stanza of the poem Requiem that she can keep the book for free This literary illusion brings a whole weight of history with it, as poets in Ahkmatova s circle during Soviet times would gather and recite each others poetry until every knew the verses by heart The idea was that the authorities could burn the manuscripts or jail and kill the poet such was the fate of Osip Mandelstam , but their words would live on in the hearts and minds of their friends Remembering is a form of resistance, and the arts are a perfect canvas to place the memories of atrocities for people to know of them in the future Art keeps the fire alive long after the bodies grow cold He wondered what it would take for there to be a true reckoning with the repressive roles men imposed on each other, a moment when acting despotic would finally be recognized as the weakness that it was This novel is a bit on the bleak side, but this does not subtract from its power and importance Even the hopeful moments near the end with Olga running for local government are acknowledged to likely be met with failure, but Novey also makes a point that noble failures slowly chip away at power structures and pave the way for the next person to makeprogress Those Who Knew packs a lot of necessary social commentary punch on a wide range of topics of power Victor even gets involved in a political scandal involving industrial farming that is hurting the local ecosystem, which should draw the reader s attention to issues of the Climate Crisis and the way misinformation and those in places of power try to silence the urgent need for reform and the methods at which keeping checks on power are hindered Fast paced, innovative and urgent, this book is an incredible statement on power structure and the way they are maintained at the expense of everyone else 4 5 Those Who Knew is one of the most timely, on point works of fiction for this era.With the opening pages of Idra Novey s sopho novel, Those Who Knew, you will be hooked into the story of politics, intrigue, masculine abuse, secrets and lies.On an unnamed island, exactly one week after the death of a young woman is ruled accidental, Lena discovers in her purse a shirt that she is convinced belonged to the young woman, Maria Her friend, bookshop weed store owner, Olga tries to convince Lena Those Who Knew is one of the most timely, on point works of fiction for this era.With the opening pages of Idra Novey s sopho novel, Those Who Knew, you will be hooked into the story of politics, intrigue, masculine abuse, secrets and lies.On an unnamed island, exactly one week after the death of a young woman is ruled accidental, Lena discovers in her purse a shirt that she is convinced belonged to the young woman, Maria Her friend, bookshop weed store owner, Olga tries to convince Lena that she only is imagining things But Lena suspects the girl was pushed in front of the train by an up and coming Senator, Victor, with whom Lena once had a liaison and during which time Victor quite nearly killed Lena in a fit of rage As the story progresses, we learnof Victor and the machinations of his rise to power We meet Victor s brother, Freddie, a gay playwright, who also suspects Victor The beginning of the book is filled with twists and turns and intrigue and is told from multiple points of view One would think that it would get confusing or scrambled, however, the deft writing skills of Novey, smoothly transition from one person to the next, one thought to another beautifully.The latter portion of the book reads differently from the first as the characters examine their past actions, what they have done what they might have done differently and how those different actions might have affected a different outcome It is here in which the beauty of the book resonates and the true talent of the author shines I gladly would read this book multiple times over and again just to have the pleasure of reading the second half with its beautiful prose.Those Who Knew is succinctly written and is, quite quick of a read and yet there is so much power and such a weighty message within so few pages that you will be left wondering how that could and also wantingIdra Novey is considered an up and coming American writer I daresay that with Those Who Knew, she has arrived there already Thank you Edelweiss, VikingBooks, and IdraNovey for my advanced copy of this book Those Who Knew is available for pre order now and will be published November 6, 2018 While I appreciated this novel s ambition and stylistic difficulty the non linear telling, the slipping identities, the political plot, the elision of place names and the setting in an unnamed Latin American ish island nation I can t say I actually liked the book I actually don t understand what it was about, which is to say it was about many things but I have trouble integrating the ideas So I m surprised at the novel s recent publicity that seems to center on the bad man storyline While I appreciated this novel s ambition and stylistic difficulty the non linear telling, the slipping identities, the political plot, the elision of place names and the setting in an unnamed Latin American ish island nation I can t say I actually liked the book I actually don t understand what it was about, which is to say it was about many things but I have trouble integrating the ideas So I m surprised at the novel s recent publicity that seems to center on the bad man storyline it has been called the definitive MeToo novel I suspect the readers of that Entertainment Weekly article are going to find themselves bewildered when they attempt to read this For me it veered off in so many directions tangents that were never explored and never quite cohered It may be an issue of style I recall being a little nonplussed while reading Novey s similarly stylized novel, Ways to Disappear, a couple years ago

  • Hardcover
  • 248 pages
  • Those Who Knew
  • Idra Novey
  • English
  • 13 August 2019
  • 0525560432

About the Author: Idra Novey

Idra Novey is the author of the novel Those Who Knew, a Best Book of 2018 with NPR, Esquire, BBC, Real Simple, O magazine, Kirkus Reviews and a New York Times Editors Choice Her first novel Ways to Dis ap pear received the 2017 Sami Rohr Prize, the 2016 Brooklyn Library Literary Prize, and was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for First Fiction Her fic tion and poetry have been trans lated into twelve lan guages She s written for The New York Times, the LA Times, and NPR s All Things Con sid ered She s also translated four books from Spanish and Portuguese, most recently Clarice Lispector s novel The Pas sion Accord ing to G.H.


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