Saturday, February 26, 2011

Something in The Shadows by Vin Packer

Ed here: I was looking for a copy of the Vin Packer cover for Something in The Shadows (the great Dillons did it) when I stumbled across this review by Michael Carlson on his IRRESISTIBLE TARGETS site. A) This is how reviews should be written and B) This is the finest review of how Packer's finest novel (to me) relates to today's pop culture. I admire the book more than Carlson does but his points are well taken. Carlson's site doesn't seem to be active now which is too bad becaue the man can write (take a look at his credits when you link the the entire review).


VIN PACKER'S SOMETHING IN THE SHADOWS: A Forgotten Friday Entry Michael Carlson

There's a certain resonance to Something In The Shadows now, in the light of first the HBO series Mad Men and then the Hollywood copycat Revolutionary Road, both of which try to address the restrictive boundaries of 1950s American society. The novel is arguably the best of Vin Packer's psychological thrillers, in which a small killing, of a cat, grows into a murder, but the real suspense in the story is the watching of Joseph Meaker's mind crumble. It's reminiscent of Patricia Highsmith, and therein lies part of the tale.

Meaker and his wife live in an old farmhouse, in rural Bucks County, Pennsylvania, from which Maggie commutes to her New York job in advertising. Advertising was a buzz-word at the time, and as both Mad Men and Revolutionary Road confirm, we still see the era as defined by the take-over of the sell, the slick media presentation, over the reality of life. Joseph is a scholar, in dead-end pursuit of hex-signs on Bucks County barns, but he spends much of his time contemplating his lost college love, Varda, a Hungarian woman whose activist nature contrasted even more than Maggie's with his pseudo-intellectual passivity; the key moment in their relationship came when he fled racist hecklers at a Henry Wallace for President rally in 1948; Varda of course was working for Wallace.


David Cranmer said...

I'm enjoying Vin Packer's SPRING FIRE right now.

Todd Mason said...

Wow! That is a potent restructuring of Marijane Meaker's own life at the time...and I haven't even gone to the dead site yet...and a gorgeous Dillons cover, indeed.

wv: compl (compelled, indeed)

Todd Mason said...

Carlson's site is still active, Ed...though I haven't seen him in the FFB rolls for a while. Thanks for the pointer (how did I miss him?)

Michael Carlson said...

Thanks for the kind words, Ed (he said four years later...I just came across them by accident when I went to put the post up on Facebook in honor of Todd Haynes' film Carol.) The blog is still active--after a fashion--various personal things, including the need to make money writing, get in the way, but it's still running pretty regularly