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Generation Loss: A Novel [Hardcover]

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Item description for Generation Loss: A Novel by Elizabeth Hand...

Praise for Elizabeth Hand's previous novels:

"Inhabits a world between reason and insanity-it's a delightful waking dream."-People

"One of the most sheerly impressive, not to mention overwhelmingly beautiful books I have read in a long time."-Peter Straub

Cass Neary made her name in the 1970s as a photographer embedded in the burgeoning punk movement in New York City. Her pictures of the musicians and hangers on, the infamous, the damned, and the dead, got her into art galleries and a book deal. But thirty years later she is adrift, on her way down, and almost out. Then an old acquaintance sends her on a mercy gig to interview a famously reclusive photographer who lives on an island in Maine. When she arrives Downeast, Cass stumbles across a decades-old mystery that is still claiming victims, and into one final shot at redemption.

Elizabeth Hand grew up in New York State. In 1975 she moved to Washington, DC, to study playwriting at Catholic University. After seeing Patti Smith perform, Hand flunked out and became involved in the DC and New York City nascent punk scenes. From 1979 to 1986 she worked at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum; she returned to university to study cultural anthropology, and received her BA in 1985. The author of seven previous novels and the recipient of a Maine Arts Commission and an NEA Fellowship, she is a regular contributor to The Washington Post Book World. Hand lives with her family on the Maine coast.

Outline Review

Praise for Elizabeth Hand's previous novels:

"Inhabits a world between reason and insanity-it's a delightful waking dream."--People

"One of the most sheerly impressive, not to mention overwhelmingly beautiful books I have read in a long time."--Peter Straub

Cass Neary made her name in the 1970s as a photographer embedded in the burgeoning punk movement in New York City. Her pictures of the musicians and hangers on, the infamous, the damned, and the dead, got her into art galleries and a book deal. But 30 years later she is adrift, on her way down, and almost out. Then an old acquaintance sends her on a mercy gig to interview a famously reclusive photographer who lives on an island in Maine. When she arrives Downeast, Cass stumbles across a decades-old mystery that is still claiming victims, and into one final shot at redemption.

Questions for Elizabeth Hand

Jeff VanderMeer for Outline: Your novel Generation Loss introduces readers to a very eccentric and sometimes selfish photographer named Cass. Are all artists inherently selfish?

Hand: Yes. You can't be an artist without being inherently self-involved, without believing that the world owes you a living, and that everything you do--anything, matter how sick or twisted or feeble or pathetic--is worthy of attention. This is the secret behind the success of stuff like American Idol and YouTube. This is the world Andy Warhol bequeathed to us.

Outline: Isn't it partially that selfishness that results in great fiction? Isn't the antagonist of your novel in a way driven by selfishness?

Hand: I don't think I'd call it selfishness, to be truthful. I think creating any real art depends on an intense amount of focus--of filtering out the rest of the world as much as you can, to sustain and then impart your own vision or secondary world--what John Gardner called "the vivid and continuous dream." I think the antagonist of Generation Loss sees himself as being impelled by love--romantic love, carnal love, the pure love of artistic creation--not selfishness. Whereas Cass's motivation is something far darker and more sinister than love. She's seen the abyss; she lives there.

Outline: Is Cass Neary a prototypical "bad girl"?

Hand: Well, she's your prototypical amoral speedfreak crankhead kleptomaniac murderous rage-filled alcoholic bisexual heavily-tattooed American female photographer. So, yeah.

Outline: So this is definitely not what you'd call "chick lit"?

Hand: Umm, probably not. If it were a movie, it would have a NC-17 rating. Or maybe NR. Is Lolita considered chick lit? That book had a huge influence on me, especially with this novel. I always wanted to create a narrator like Humbert Humbert, someone utterly reprehensible and unsympathetic who still manages to command a reader's attention and even an uneasy sympathy. I loved the idea of making a reader complicit with the crimes committed by a protagonist. The simple act of continuing to turn the pages makes you guilty by association.

Outline: Did you have a particular artist in mind as the inspiration for the foul-smelling but visionary paintings in the novel?

Hand: No. That part I made up.

Outline: C'mon. You're not allowed to just make things up. Spill the beans.

Hand: No, I really didn't have anyone in mind. There are elements of the work of photographers I admire--Robert Mapplethorpe, Cindy Sherman, Sally Man, Joel-Peter Witkin--and of outsider artists like Henry Darger or Richard Dadd or Roky Erickson. But the whole concept of an artist creating his own emulsion paper--I thought of that, then researched it and learned that, indeed, some photographers work that way. I also consulted a photographic conservator who's an acquaintance and asked him, Is this possible? He said yes, and I took it from there.

Outline: Are people in Maine as mean toward tourists as you describe?

Hand: No. Just me. Though folks who work at the general store three doors down from me really do sometimes wear a T-shirt that reads THEY CALL IT TOURIST SEASON, WHY CAN'T WE SHOOT THEM? So, okay, me and them.

Outline: Have you ever driven a tourist off your property with a shovel?

Hand: Not yet. But I would. A few years ago friend said he pictured me up on the Laurentian shield, threatening outsiders with a pitchfork. That's pretty accurate.

Outline: Weren't you once a tourist?

Hand: Never. I lived in DC for 13 years, and worked for a long time at the Smithsonian's National Air & Space Museum--Tourist Central. That effectively killed any sympathy I might ever have had towards them.

Outline: What's coming up for you?

Hand: Well, I'll be doing some touring and readings for this book, and I hope to record the entire novel as a podcast/audio book--I'm very excited to be performing again. I'm presently at work on a YA novel about Arthur Rimbaud called Wonderwall, to be published by Viking, and am brooding on another novel that might be something along the lines of Generation Loss, or not. I get restless and like to shift gears a lot. So we'll see.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   265
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.1" Width: 6.1" Height: 1.1"
Weight:   1.2 lbs.
Binding  Hardcover
Release Date   Apr 16, 2007
Publisher   Small Beer Press
ISBN  1931520216  
ISBN13  9781931520218  

Availability  0 units.

More About Elizabeth Hand

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Elizabeth Hand is the winner of both the Nebula and the World Fantasy Awards. She is the author of "Winterlong, Waking the Moon, Glimmering, Last Summer at Mars Hill, "and "Black Light." A noted critic, she is a frequent book reviewer for "The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, The Washington Post Book Review, "and "The Village Voice." She lives in Maine with her family.""

Elizabeth Hand currently resides in Lincolnville, in the state of Maine.

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General > Contemporary
2Books > Subjects > Mystery & Thrillers > General
3Books > Subjects > Mystery & Thrillers > Mystery > General

Reviews - What do customers think about Generation Loss: A Novel?

character-driven, largely unappealing people  May 31, 2008
I am new to Elizabeth Hand, and tried "Generation Loss" because of its unusual themes of Maine, art/photography, punk, and more. Hmm, what was she going to do with that? The result was crisply done, yet somewhat creepy, without a bunch of detours into background and filler that a lesser writer might have indulged in so as not to "waste" research. As two fitting examples, I learned enough about Maine and about the art scene to be interested and not overwhelmed.

Cass Neary, as the burned-out artist stumbling through life, is largely unappealing and unsympathetic. Perhaps Ms. Hand went a bit overboard there, or perhaps I am too simplistic and sentimental in preferring main characters with a positive attribute or two. Even as she gets involved in the mystery and takes decisive action, Cass is still far from angelic. That's cool, because an epiphany that changed Cass into a completely different person would have been grossly out of place.

I liked the idea of tying a plot to photography, which seemed quite fresh. Maine served as a fine backdrop, too, with local color. Who needs another art-oriented story playing out entirely in NYC or LA? Some of the edge was taken off, however, because I guessed a couple of the key secrets well before the end. Maybe I got lucky or maybe the clues were clear or maybe there weren't very many options possible. Whatever it was, that was ok, because the crispness propelled everything along to a sharp ending.
Not exactly vacation land  Apr 21, 2008
Elizabeth Hand ("Waking the Moon," "Mortal Love," among others), known for her poetic and utterly dark fantasies, attempts a more conventional Gothic tale this time, and succeeds beautifully. The characters are memorable; the conclusion is crisp. There are no wasted scenes.

Her protagonist, Cass Neary, a burned-out sociopathic leftover from the 1970s punk era, was "famous long ago" for a photography book in which she photographed dead people.

Now, an old friend from back in the day gives her an assignment to interview another formerly famous photographer, who lives alone on an island in Northern Maine.

Cass soon finds herself enmeshed in a world of missing teens, former hippies, ruined buildings, and mysterious animals--among other things--and Ms. Hand, with her tricky plot, dares you to figure out where she's going with the tale before she's ready to reveal the answers. (I doubt you will figure things out.)

And, along the way, some of her readers will learn a great deal about the almost vanished art of taking pictures with film cameras, while others will nod and smile, and remember the days of grainy Kodak Tri-X black and white.

I was surprised that Ms. Hand has written something so conventional, something so within the boundaries of the Gothic (I was casting the movie version in my head--something I've never done with any of this author's novels before), and equally surprised how well she brought it off.
(4.5 stars) "You and me, we carry the dead on our backs."  Apr 7, 2008

Damaged goods. Punk music scene photographer Cass "Scary" Neary achieves a sort of aberrant notoriety with her book "Dead Girls". Drawn to the nihilistic mentality of the 70s punk movement, the drug-fueled Cass revels in anti-materialistic rebellion, careless of her body, pushing to the edge and over, increasingly drawn to the pure, if dark, images of subjects no longer animated by a life force. Enamored of the bridge between here and gone, Cass lurks with her camera in shadowy corners, filthy alleys, recording the last moments of wasted lives. Her second book barely acknowledged, Cass remains inspired by those photographers who capture the stark underbelly of the real world. Thirty years later, Neary is as disconnected as ever, living frugally, seeking respite in drugs and alcohol. When she is offered a gig interviewing her idol, the iconic photographer Aphrodite Kamestos, who lives on a secluded island off the coast of Maine, a more-seasoned Cass is drawn one more time into an adventure that is as treacherous as it is seductive.

Danger is familiar to a woman who still bears the scars of a traumatic encounter in a vacant lot ("It's always 4 a.m. beneath a broken street lamp."), her instinctively ignoring warning signs to pay homage to a long love affair with the eye of the camera, the infinite beauty of genius. Such is the early work of Aphrodite, removed from the prying eyes of hangers-on and acolytes. To be in the presence of such talent is its own reward, regardless of Aphrodite's reaction to any intrusion. From the familiar squalor of her digs in New York City, Cass plunges into the heart-stopping chill of Maine, ill-prepared but determined to garner some nugget, proof that her long search for perfection is not in vain. Genius is like fool's gold, irresistible. Accidentally meeting Aphrodite's son the night before her choppy passage to Paswegas Island, Cass is jarred by a vague intuition of danger, distracted as well by a profusion of posters of the lost, tattered notices, "Have you seen this person"? A world-weary survivor, Cass's instincts are self-serving, cynical, a driven woman whose hopefulness is buried under years of disaffection and regret, her imagined and drug-addled responses routinely confrontational.

Her passage into unfamiliar territory sprinkled with epithets, Hand's protagonist challenges us to see beyond the façade, to care about Cass in spite of her behavior, blazing through the eccentric lives of island residents, sniffing out dishonesty, danger and genius in equal measure. Island dramas tragically play out, Cass the unlikely catalyst who is more in sync with her surroundings than she will admit. In an adrenaline-shot climax, Cass meets genius and evil face to face, haunted by the hypnotic images that call to her artist's soul. A provocative and unpredictable character, Cass is compelling in her abandon, her struggle to reclaim sanity in the face of annihilation, a prickly, surprising heroine. Hand captures that most elusive of subjects, the artist's quest for the perfect, redemptive image and the chaos that attends such vision. Never ethereal or pure, this is murky territory, strewn with despair and failure, as heady as the first injection of heroin into a throbbing vein, a reckless impulse to discover the Holy Grail or know the searing touch of the hand of God. Luan Gaines/ 2008.

Not Free SF Reader  Apr 5, 2008
Hasbeen photographer's horror isle.

It seems neither Hand or King make you want to rush out and book a holiday in isolated parts of Maine.

While the cover points out the story is about a character of the 70s punk era, this book is not about music or musicians at all, just a character of that era.

She became briefly famous for a photography project at a young age, and just drifted into a vaguely sordid low-rent existence afterwards.

Surprisingly, she is offered a project involving a famous artist, and not so suprisingly agrees.

Cue suspense and move towards Thomas Harris territory later in the book.

3.5 out of 5
I have been unable to forget this book since I read it.  Dec 28, 2007
Cass is a has-been photographer in her 40s who achieved momentary fame as a chronicler of the wasted punk scene in New York City in the late 1970s. Since then has been a slow slide into obscurity and despair; she's now as dead as you can be while still having a pulse.

Then she gets an offer to go to rural Maine to interview a reclusive woman photographer who once pioneered a dreamlike photography technique. Cass leaves her rancid NYC apartment for the harsh and frozen shore of Maine. There she meets a strange young man who simultaneously repels and attracts her, and a troubled teenage girl who will go missing. Those are just the first of the lunatics and psychopaths she meets. As she gets better acquainted with the townfolk, she uncovers a dark secret that stretches back to the reckless actions of mystical group of drop-outs in the late 1960s.

Cass herself is an unforgettable character who gets several very funny lines. Aside from the pleasures of accompanying such a complex person through such a spooky landscape, you learn a lot about photography in a subtle way that never slows the action. This is a precise, realistic, and haunting mystery. Longer review at BellaOnline Mystery Books (BellaOnline-dot-com).

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