The long take Or, a way to lose more slowly

Robin Robertson, 1955-

Book - 2019

A Canadian veteran of D-Day travels through New York, Los Angeles, and San Francisco, struggling with his memories of the war and experiencing firsthand America's postwar social and racial divisions. The story is told in verse and illustrations --

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New York : Alfred A. Knopf 2019.
First United States edition
Item Description
Originally published in hardcover in Great Britain by Picador, an imprint of Pan Macmillan, London, in 2018.
Physical Description
237 pages : illustrations ; 20 cm
Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, 2018.
Includes bibliographical references (pages 230-236).
Main Author
Robin Robertson, 1955- (author)
  • 1946
  • 1948
  • 1951
  • 1953
  • Credits.
Review by Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* Arriving in New York City in 1946, young WWII veteran Walker is assailed by memories of his childhood in pristine Nova Scotia and tormented by PTSD and guilt. Unable to sleep, he paces the night streets, absorbing the city's hustle and edgy beauty, his restlessness eventually propelling him to Los Angeles. In this hypnotic and wrenching novel in verse, this "noir narrative," shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, award-winning Scottish poet Robertson draws on the aesthetics of classic noir films, which his protagonist loves, especially the dramatic "long take." Walker, working as a newspaper reporter, performs his own long takes as he watches this desert city of celluloid dreams demolish its homes, shops, and sidewalks to build freeways and parking lots while veterans unable to find work form a desperate army of the homeless. Walker's ravishing observations, punctuated by visits to dive bars, are laced with cinematic variations on the yin-yang of dark and light as he witnesses the ravages of racism, poverty, and alcohol; takes measure of gruesome crime scenes; and despairs of ever making things right. Robertson transforms the long take into an epic taking of life, liberty, reason, and hope in this saga of a good man broken by war and a city savaged by greed, an arresting and gorgeously lyrical and disquieting tale of brutal authenticity, hard-won compassion, and stygian splendor. Copyright 2018 Booklist Reviews.

Review by PW Annex Reviews

Shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, this insistent novel in verse from Robertson (Sailing the Forest) captures a D-Day veteran's tortured reckoning with the postwar hollowing out of downtown Los Angeles. Back from Europe, Walker is mesmerized by L.A., "the city/ a magnesium strip; a carnival/ on one long midway." That romantic view is tempered by the city's underbelly of violence, racism, and poverty, which he encounters as a cub reporter. Dismayed by Skid Row, he pitches a feature on homelessness that sends him up to San Francisco and its "play of height and depth, this/ changing sift of color and weather." Walker returns to find downtown L.A. being "demolished and rebuilt" into highway interchanges and parking lots. "The drumfire of falling/ buildings" calls back Walker's war memories, and Robertson skillfully intermingles imagery of battles in France and L.A.'s demolished blocks to powerfully contend that "cities are a kind of war." Less convincing is when Robertson exchanges his magnificent depictions for pedantry, including the declaration that "they call this progress, when it's really only greed." Still, this novel succeeds in bringing life to a crucial moment of urban history; Robertson's vision of Los Angeles under siege is simply indispensable. (Nov.) Copyright 2018 Publishers Weekly Annex.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

**Finalist for the 2018 Man Booker Prize****Winner of the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction, the Goldsmiths Prize for Innovative Fiction, and the Roehampton Poetry Prize**From the award-winning British author—a poet's noir narrative that tells the story of a D-Day veteran in postwar America: a good man, brutalized by war, haunted by violence and apparently doomed to return to it, yet resolved to find kindness again, in the world and in himself.Walker is a D-Day veteran with post-traumatic stress disorder; he can't return home to rural Nova Scotia, and looks instead to the city for freedom, anonymity and repair. As he finds his way from New York to Los Angeles and San Francisco, we witness a crucial period of fracture in American history, one that also allowed film noir to flourish. The Dream had gone sour but—as those dark, classic movies made clear—the country needed outsiders to study and to dramatize its new anxieties. Both an outsider and, gradually, an insider, Walker finds work as a journalist, and tries to piece his life together as America is beginning to come apart: riven by social and racial divisions, spiraling corruption, and the collapse of the inner cities. Robin Robertson's fluid verse pans with filmic immediacy across the postwar urban scene—and into the heart of an unforgettable character—in this highly original work of art.