Day for Night by Frederick Reiken
Reagan Arthur Books, April 26, 2010
It is often said that successful novels need at least two out of three things: good writing, good characters or a good story. That may be true. But in the best novels, like Frederick Reiken's Day for Night, you get all three.
I had never heard of Reiken until this book, combined with some fabulous pre-pub reviews, crossed my desk. The novel opens on a boat in Florida, where a woman is vacationing with her longtime boyfriend, who has cancer, and his 12-year-old son. Beverly is strangely drawn to their young guide, Tim, who tells her about a gig he and his band are playing that night while the others are swimming with manatees. As she slips out of the hotel room later that night to attend the show, you might think you know where this story is going. You'd be wrong.
Just a handful of pages later, we leave Beverly to fly to Utah with Tim and the lead singer in his band, Dee. A few pages after that, we're reading a deposition from a federal agent who's been tracking a suspected terrorist for the last 20 years. All of these threads, and more, come together in surprising, compelling ways. Poetic and moving, Day for Night is a novel to remember.
This excerpt is from the second section, told from Tim's perspective.
We have a song, which Dee wrote—she's written all of our songs—called "Close You Are," and unlike "Down in the Sea of Me," it isn't cryptic and it isn't about Dee's history of childhood trauma. What it's about is the idea that we're much closer than we think to the random people we see on any given day, that everyone in this world carves out a little groove and that although you may think your world is large you rarely venture far outside that groove. That there are other people in these grooves with you, that grooving, at least in this song, means to be dancing with the people in your groove. The chorus of the song—Close you are, grooving!—might sound dumb just to say (especially since people hear it as "groovy" and not "grooving"), but it sounds good when you hear Dee sing it. She jumps around a lot when she sings this song and it's fun to watch her. It's like she's two different people singing, one who sings Close you are and another who chimes in grooving! She seems so happy and clear, unlike in "Down in the Sea of Me." When she sings that song, you get scared because it's like she's turned into this big black hole and you're sucked right in. Her face turns mean and you would think a person with a face like that could kill you. A face like that you will keep on seeing in your mind and you'll feel relief when you drive home and know that face is just a memory. The problem is that when you're far enough away you'll want to see it again, this face that is cruel and luscious and arousing. You think you really might be willing to go down into that sea.
p.s. For a new imprint, Regan Arthur Books is off to an big start (not that anything less is to be expected from the editor of Ian Rankin, Elizabeth Kostova and Kate Atkinson). It launched with two of the most anticipated literary novels of the year, Joshua Ferris' The Unnamed and Elizabeth Kostova's The Swan Thieves; continued with the March release of Next, which has gotten a lot of buzz; and in May, they'll publish The Rehearsal, a debut that made the Orange Prize longlist. Readers are noticing: bloggers Booking Mama and Bermuda Onion are hosting a Regan Books Reading Challenge. Do you pay attention to publishers or imprints when selecting your next read?