Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Nana by Delacorta

In the mid-80's, I was a regular attendee at a marvelous repertory cinema and it was there I saw the movie Diva by Jean-Jacques Beineix.  There is something about it that fascinates me to this day. Two of the characters, Alba and Gorodish, especially intrigued me.  There was an air of mystery surrounding Gorodish, who, as played by Richard Bohringer, had a sort of rumpled cool that I admired.  I had the rumpled part down cold if not the cool.  Then there was Alba, the woman-child, who exuded youthfulness and a simmering sexuality that made me feel like a dirty old man at 20.  I couldn't take my eyes off either of them despite the fact they really weren't the main characters.  

It wasn't until some years later I learned Diva was based on a novel of the same name by an author named Delacorta.  I thought one day I might come across it but since I assumed the book would be in French, what good would it do me? Despite three and a half years of study in college, I wasn't fluent enough to attempt to read it so you might imagine my surprise and delight to find a copy of Nana, the prequel to Diva, in my favorite used book grotto, in English, no less.  I practically raced home to start reading it.  I have since learned there are five novels featuring the exploits of Gorodish and Alba and Nana sets the stage.

As if this weren't already a sort of miraculous find, there is an inscription dated January, 1984 which reads "To Peter, because I love you.  Love, Cathie".  It made me wonder who Peter and Cathie were in 1984 and it made me wish I was Peter.  If Cathie bought this book and did so just because she loved him, she must have been one cool babe. It filled me with longing for a woman I'll never know.

In any case, Nana is no great literary event.  It is dated, trashy, at times completely unrealistic (a man and woman have sex on a moving motorcycle, going full speed.  At night!), and made me once again feel like a dirty old man.  That's because Gorodish is a dirty old man and thirteen year-old Alba is the object of his, ahem, desires.  As written, Alba, desires nothing less.  Perhaps this seemed kinky or risque or simply French in 1979 when Nana was published.  Now it seems rather creepy. 

However, once I got past all that, I loved it!  It gave me the back story I've always hoped for about both characters along with the promise of four more books about them.  Gorodish is a cool-as-ice con man and paired with Alba's street smarts and willingness to do anything for him, Nana is cinematic, dramatically tense, and great, pulpy fun.  Sometimes trash is treasure and I so look forward to tracking down the rest of the series.

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