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Chris Blocker

Literary snobbery and other thoughts by Chris Blocker

At Night We Walk In Circles

At Night We Walk in Circles - Daniel Alarcón

While I was reading At Night We Walk In Circles, I caught my ten year old staring at the book cover. “What?” I asked. “That's a weird title,” he said. “Why is it weird?” I asked. He said he didn't know, that it just was. I brushed it off. The next day, while I was reading, my wife interrupted me: “At Night We Walk In Circles—that's an odd title.” “What's so odd about it?” I demanded. She had no answer, but then turned the unanswerable question around on me. “What's the relevance of the title?” she asked. I responded I didn't know yet, but that I was sure I would by the end of the book.

 

Well, I reached the end; and truthfully, I have no idea what the title means. Likely I'm missing something obvious, but it doesn't matter. I wasn't as bugged by the title as they were.

 

At Night We Walk In Circles is a wonderfully written story that took me down roads I hadn't expected. As the blurb says, this is a novel about Nelson, a young actor, who lands a role in the revival of the controversial play, The Idiot President. The summary promises suspense and antics, but really, what can you expect from a book about a play? But Alarcón has here written a novel that really entertains. The story is fresh. The language is crisp. At no point during the story did I find myself losing interest.

 

For much of the novel, I thought I was looking at a truly groundbreaking novel, a prize winner that brought to mind other contemporary novels such as Middlesex and The Orphan Master's Son. It comes close, but there are a couple elements that keep me from thinking this book will reach those heights. First, the story is plot and language focused. That's great, and it really moved the book, but I never got a great sense of who these characters were. Second, and perhaps more significant, was the narrative voice. It worked as well, but I couldn't help but wonder if the narrative choice could've been done differently. As our narrator becomes more prominent toward the end of the novel, I found my affection for the novel greatly diminishing. It was an interesting choice, possibly the right one, but it added some disconnect for me as a reader.

 

Do I recommend you read it? Absolutely, if for no other reason than you can share your ideas about the significance of the title. My family waits with bated breath.