Picks and Pans Review: Gotham Tragic

UPDATED 03/01/2004 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 03/01/2004 at 01:00 AM EST

By Kurt Wenzel

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It's 1999, and Kyle Clayton, "America's last great literary fool" (washed-up, tragic), is a fixture of the bar at City, where, Gotham's elite meet. Clayton, a recent convert to Islam, loves the proximity to power. He ogles women (such as a knockout waitress he can't remember bedding), to the annoyance of his Turkish wife, who sneers at his boozing and tries to placate her traditional father-whom Kyle mocks in a short story. Bad idea, pal. A fatwa ensues.

Premillennial Manhattan was awesome, but few writers have dared to try to capture the effervescence of that moment. Maybe Sept. 11 left a lot of novels half finished. But incorporating Islam into the story—like Clayton, Wenzel is a convert—makes it somehow okay. Wenzel can be a bit too sardonic, but he's often charming and bold, especially on religion and money. Gotham Tragic is apt to please connoisseurs of New York stories about writers.

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