Eastman Was Here by Alex Gilvarry
There was good reason for me to hear of Mr. Gilvarry, and up to this point I should have. Reading his biography there are countless examples of why his books should be required reading for this guy right here. They never made it on my radar, and for no reason. Regardless, we all should be reading Mr. Gilvarry and his great new novel Eastman Was Here. How many great novels get published every year? Ask Jonathan Lethem, who might have made the point that only a few are really “great”. It’s so damn hard to write them. Let along get anyone’s attention to sit down and read one or two or a million. That’s just how many get published every year, kidding, sorta.
There is almost nothing to dislike about Alan Eastman, the main character in this paper cut sharp story – well – besides everything. He’s not a fool, but suffers them in his own way. You will admire his tenacity in his own Game of Thrones love life and you will no doubt be shocked at how quickly he goes from one lover to the next without a hint of conscience. That should be enough to make you want to read this. But like me, you may not know Mr. Gilvarry.
That makes me sad.
We start with the absurd. Eastman is on the floor of his apartment with a wrenched back, and his wife has just left him. No reason. Just, “Gotta go, you’re too much,” she says, we don’t read that, it’s just how the story will make you feel, like she might’ve said that.
Now Eastman is a bit of an asshole, (the good kind, and that is a real thing, have you ever read Jernigan by David Gates? No? Jesus Wept, please read that) and when you pen one great war novel you live in that glow. Then it wears off and like an act of bravery you’re looked upon to “Do it again.”. Eastman is that writer who is “known” for a great book.
We keep waiting for Eastman to get up and leave, go do something, write, be that guy, but we must backtrack into his ridiculously hilarious, laugh out loud funny, slap your knees, tears on your cheeks pre-book life. The period Eastman finds himself in, New York City mid-1970’s, and you can almost feel the apathy towards convention on every page.
Now that’s all Mr. Gilvarry. “All stories have been written”, says Bret Easton Ellis, “it is simply a matter of style that makes them different.” I am quoting him here, I know he said something like this, but I drank his Kool-Aid years ago…
Mr. Gilvarry writes like he means it.
Readers will truly appreciate the speed that this story moves; we wander inside his quick thoughts, rationalizations of going from one bad idea to the next. Oh, and the time period, it’s bougie, but stoned, littered with bookish intellectuals on the hunt of some Vietnam War empathy. That conflict is just wrapping up when an “old rival” (jacket copy) crops up like freckles and urges Eastman back to the “shit” to report on the end of said conflict. This is when the wheels come off this little red wagon.
Eastman in Vietnam, that’s the story. Well. Not really. When he gets there, we find out that it’s not really the story he thought it was. And that too is sad. You will hope for explosions, carnage and dragons, (oh wait, wrong story) and instead what you get is a crisp and fluid vision from a balcony on the action which is appalling and grotesque.
Now that is Mr. Gilvarry. That’s what writers are supposed to do, transport you, and entertain. It has been a very long time since a book has magnetized itself to me, and begged to be finished, Eastman Was Here will complete you, trust me, and I could go on, but then you won’t need to read the book.
And that too would make me sad.