Monday, January 18, 2010

Review of Rage

The adjective that comes to mind when considering Sergio Bizzio’s novel Rage, (Bitter Lemon Press, 2009), is Ballardian. That may seem like praise, but it’s hard to say. Ballard’s novels are novels of disconnection and alienation, of men and women who are ciphers even to themselves, drifting through the modern world distanced from any real human connections by technology and the strange, solitary, sanitized nature of modern life. In short, Ballard was preoccupied with the death of community, and the great lengths people will go to to feel something, anything. As such, they are often difficult to read. They're certainly not what Graham Greene would have labeled "entertainments."

While, Rage, is a novel of isolation, similar to say, Concrete Island, where a man is stranded in a secret world on an island in the middle of a highway, it is also shot through with a Marxist critique of a decaying society where the gap between the rich and the poor is so large that the poor can, quite literally, disappear in the huge, empty homes of the doomed rich. It is also a novel of strong emotions, as the title implies, and strong emotions are often lacking in Ballard's work.

Jose Maria, a construction worker, falls in love with Rosa, the beautiful, but poor housekeeper of a rich Argentine family. At first, things are going well, as the two find time to be together, but then Jose Maria kills his foreman in a fit of rage and goes into hiding. He picks, as his hiding spot, the huge home of Rosa employers, where he takes up residence in a room no one uses. In his new role as fugitive and voyeur, Jose Maria spies on his former lover as well as the family for whom she works. He learns their secrets, and witnesses their bad behavior. He uses the home’s second line to sneak secret phone calls to Rosa, but will not tell her his whereabouts.

He does adopt a role as her protector and avenger, however. When one family member rapes her, Jose Maria kills him and tries to make it look like an accident. The family quickly covers it up to prevent disgrace. When Rosa’s new boyfriend knocks her up and refuses to take responsibility, Jose Maria sneaks out of the house and murders him as well. From there, he takes up the improbable role of invisible father, forcing a shady relative to deliver money to Rosa, and sneaking time with the baby once he is born.

Of course, Jose Maria can’t hide from Rosa forever. Their reunion, and the end of the book overall, are somewhat puzzling. Without getting into spoilers, it’s a little difficult to decipher Jose Maria’s fate is supposed to mean. Then again, maybe that’s just another way Bizzio is similar to Ballard.

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