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eBook Red Lights (New York Review Books Classics) ePub

eBook Red Lights (New York Review Books Classics) ePub

by Norman Denny,Anita Brookner,Georges Simenon

  • ISBN: 1590171934
  • Category: Genre Fiction
  • Subcategory: Literature
  • Author: Norman Denny,Anita Brookner,Georges Simenon
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: NYRB Classics; paperback / softback edition (July 18, 2006)
  • Pages: 144
  • ePub book: 1429 kb
  • Fb2 book: 1532 kb
  • Other: doc lrf azw lit
  • Rating: 4.9
  • Votes: 979

Description

It is Friday evening before Labor Day weekend. Americans are hitting the highways in droves; the radio crackles with warnings of traffic jams and crashed cars. Steve Hogan and his wife, Nancy, have a long drive ahead—from New York City to Maine, where their children are in camp. But Steve wants a drink before they go, and on the road he wants another. Soon, exploding with suppressed fury, he is heading into that dark place in himself he calls “the tunnel.” When Steve stops for yet another drink, Nancy has had enough. She leaves the car. On a bender now, Steve makes a friend: Sid Halligan, an escapee from Sing Sing. Steve tells Sid all about Nancy. Most men are scared, Steve thinks, but not Sid. The next day, Steve wakes up on the side of the road. His car has a flat, his money is gone, and there’s one more thing still left for him to learn about Nancy, Sid Halligan, and himself.

Comments

Fenrikasa Fenrikasa
That most American of genres -- the "noir" fiction set on the open road -- is here done to perfection by master suspense writer George Simenon. Most people who pick it up find that they like it very much.
Darkraven Darkraven
Red Lights by French author Georges Simenon takes place in 1955 America, where nearly everyone drives a car and the highways are jam packed. And that's Red Lights as in all the red tail lights a driver sees when driving at night. “What got on his nerves was the incessant hum of wheels on either side of him, the headlights rushing to meet him every hundred yards, and also the sensation of being caught in a tide, with no way of escaping either to right or to left, or even of driving more slowly, because his mirror showed a triple string of lights following bumper-to-bumper behind him.”

Red Lights is vintage Simenon, a psychological study of a man pushed beyond his normal limits and conventional day-to-day routine, the type of non-Inspector Maigret novel the author himself termed romans durs or “hard novel,” as in hard on both his characters within the novel and readers of the novel. And it’s the sequence of psychological states of main character Steve Hogan during the time leading up to the story’s dramatic crisis I find particularly fascinating.

Steve’s private term – “going into the tunnel” – not a fit of rage but a slow burn down, a subterranean brick and mortar passageway into the dark recesses of his own psyche with prods, presses and jabs from the suffocating outside world serving as the bricks and intake of hard liquor as the mortar.

It all started in Manhattan after a long hot day at the office – as per usual, Steve meets his wife Nancy at their favorite midtown watering hole and, also as per usual, Nancy looks as fresh as fresh can be while Steve knows he looks like a sweaty beaten down dog. It’s the evening they will have to drive up to Maine to bring their two kids back from summer camp. Highway hell in the summer. Doesn’t this rate another drink? Nope. Nancy can sense he wants one for the road and tells him its time to leave.

Bumper-to-bumper traffic as soon as they get in their car and head for home on Long Island before the long trip north. No problem – once home Steve tells Nancy he’ll be back in a minute after he fills up the tank with gas and has the tires checked. While the car is being taken care of at the station, Steve pops in at a bar next door to have some whiskey. Steve knows he gets more annoyed with Nancy after he drinks but, damn, he has a hellish drive ahead of him.

Steve and Nancy get on the road with thousands of other cars crawling along in traffic; Steve can see each car has another Steve or Bill behind the wheel and another Nancy or Mary in the passenger seat. Enough to make a guy feel like a faceless nobody. And Nancy doesn’t have to give orders - map on her lap, Steve knows she is the one in charge, the one who will always know which turn to make and which roads to take. Switching from one slow lane to another even slower lane, one thing’s for sure – Steve needs another drink.

Back in the car, after his much needed drink (actually two stiff drinks), feeling manlier than ever, Steve has his own ideas about which way they should turn. Do you want to start a quarrel, Nancy? And don’t tell me I nearly went off the road! Simenon writes: “He was laboriously struggling to express something he felt, which he was convinced he had felt every day of his life throughout the eleven years they had been married. It was not the first time it happened, but now he was sure he had made a discovery that would enable him to explain everything. She would have to understand sometime, wouldn’t she? And the day she understood, maybe she’d try and treat him like a grown man.”

A few more bad turns, miles away from the main highway, Steve demands to stop for yet another drink. Nancy threatens if he does stop, she will leave. Steve stops, walks in the bar, knowing he has to teach Nancy a lesson. After a few much needed shots, Steve return to his car – Nancy is gone. But he does have a passenger – one Sid Halligan, an escapee from Sing Sing prison. Turns out, Steve finds somebody he can really talk to, someone who appreciates and understands sometimes it is necessary to “go off the tracks.”

What makes Simenon a great writer is his uncanny ability to make every single sentence count. We live through Steve’s going into his tunnel and off the tracks – Steve’s every move, his every thought, his shifting liquor-fueled emotions and feelings. Roger Ebert judged Simenon’s prose style as pure as running water. And as Anita Brookner writes in her Introduction: “Simenon deliberately scaled down his vocabulary to ensure that no potential reader, however humble, was excluded.” Are you an avid Simenon fan? Are you new to Simenon? Either way, Red Lights will make for one rewarding read, and that's for sure.
Jogrnd Jogrnd
Red Lights, one of Simenon’s “hard novels,” is the second such novel by Simenon I have read. In the four-page Introduction, Anita Brookner sums up what she calls his “formula” for his hard novels this way: “A life will go wrong, usually because of an element in the protagonist’s make-up which impels him to self-destruct, to willfully seek disgrace, exclusion, ruin in his search for a fulfillment and a fatal freedom which take on an aura of destiny.” In the case of Red Lights, the “formula” plays out via the main character’s “going into the tunnel,” a phrase he uses to signify an altered mental and emotional state, described by Brookner as “a kind of mental fugue” (p. vii), “a compulsion to throw off the constraints imposed by conformity, and surrender to the forces of the mind which remain mysterious even when—particularly when—they have been acted upon” (p. viii). The novel opens with the following paragraph: “He called it ‘going into the tunnel,’ an expression of his own, for his private use, which he never used in talking to anyone else, least of all his wife. He knew exactly what it meant, and what it is was like to be in the tunnel; yet, curiously, when he was there he never allowed himself to admit the fact, except for occasional brief instants, and always too late. As for determining the precise moment when he entered it, he had often tried to do this afterwards, but never with success.” (p. 5). For the main character, Steve Hogan, this frame of mind seems somewhat regressive (Brookner uses the word “instinctive”), yet is tied to a social construct of masculinity that ever needs restatement and reenactment to reassure oneself of it and, as such, exposes an underlying self-doubt that demonstrates not manly fearlessness so much as masculine angst, not natural male toughness so much as male ego fragility, not self-assuredness and reliability so much as insecurity and immaturity. This motif underlies the whole novel, but surfaces most demonstrably on page 67: “‘I know I don’t look like it, but me too, I’m a man…’ A man! A man! A man! It has been an obsession. Was he so terrified of not being one?” As in the novel, so it is in life that such masculine tunnel vision may be, at best, a regressive immaturity that becomes an embarrassment after the fact and, at worst, may result in tragic consequences.

Red Lights (1953) by Georges Simenon, translated from the French by Norman Denny, Introduction by Anita Brookner, published by New York Review Books (2006).
BoberMod BoberMod
You know his work. You love his work. You don't know his work, so you order this book on a whim, and now you love his work. More or less end of story. The insights into the dynamic of alcohol in a relationship are remarkable. This story is not just about the decisions we make, or even about the decsions we make when we are under the influence of alcohol. It is about the decisions we make after a long love affair with alcohol - the reckless choices that on the surface at first look kind of stupid, but they are far more (and worse) than stupid, and Simenon understands and illustrates this better than most writers,
Leniga Leniga
I had not heard of Georges Simenon until recently. Luckily I saw an interesting story summary while browsing Amazon Books and bought my first. It was a great read and since then I've purchased 15 or more. The mysteries and crimes Inspector Maigret solves are always unique and along the way you experience the surroundings the story takes place in.