Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Encore Lit Reviews Combat Camera

Reading Combat Camera, A.J. Somerset’s brave and gritty debut novel, one discerns here and there evidence of influence from Nathanael West’s classic Miss Lonelyhearts: the disillusioned and powerless protagonist trapped in a job that threatens to destroy his soul; the amoral boss given to endless philosophical pontificating; the vivid depictions of the squalor and desperation of the lost and disowned. For West, all that squalor was easily found in America during the Depression. In Combat Camera, the sordid setting is the realm of hardcore internet porn. Any influence from Nathanael West, however minimal it may actually be, is of course a good thing, but unlike the great American satirist, Somerset offers his protagonist something Miss Lonelyhearts never gets: a viable opportunity for redemption, a possible second chance. West was never so cruel.

Once a prize-winning freelance photographer and first-hand witness to the bloody conflicts in El Salvador, the West Bank, and Chechnya, among other hellholes, Lucas Zane is lost. Damaged, in a number of ways, and burnt-out, Zane simply exists, alone and beyond hope, in a tiny apartment in Toronto. But Melissa, one of the porn “models” he photographs, presumably recognizing a decent person and potential ally beneath the numb exterior, begins to wake Zane up and starts giving him ideas. Not the usual ideas, not the kind you might expect, but ideas instead about reviving his career, returning to legitimacy. Zane even starts to act on these ideas, despite his better judgement.


For the rest of the review, please go here.

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