Not So Fast

By Mark Kamine

Gentrification on the block, showman in the White House, ethics gone. Coming of age in the 1980s.

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Not So Fast is a picaresque novel set in the 1970s and 1980s. Its narrator travels from suburban New Jersey – whose housing developments and shopping malls provide cover for medical scams, divorces and abortions – to film-biz-saturated Los Angeles, harboring Afghan freedom fighters and damaged survivors of Hollywood’s entertainment-making machine. Back east in rapidly gentrifying New York City he comes across art snobs, literary luminaries, Wall Street gamblers and real estate players, all making the most of trickle-down economics. A foray into France puts him in touch with Eastern religion, an early wave of terrorism and the burgeoning right wing movement that is its corollary. At the novel's center are interlocking romantic triangles whose participants are looking for anything but what they already have.

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  • Mark Kamine avatar

    Mark Kamine

    Mark Kamine has written for the Times Literary SupplementThe Wall Street JournalThe Believer and The New York Times Book ReviewThe River in the Living Room, a chapbook of his stories illustrated by James Pyman, was published in an artist/writer series that included books by Rachel Kushner, Lynne Tillman and Christopher Sorrentino. He works in the film business, where he has been an executive producer on Brad’s StatusBad Moms, and God’s Pocket, and a co-producer on American HustleSilver Linings Playbook and Ted.

  • I felt claustrophobic in the law-school classrooms. Contracts in particular gave me the willies. The subject confused me, with its implied rules rising in mysterious ways out of the solid ground of executed documents. I dreaded being called on. I sweated. My breath was short. I had to pee almost from the moment class started even though I peed before walking in. I felt trapped and off-kilter.

    The two kids I became close to would move through the three-year program without a hitch, become lawyers, and venture out into the professional world. I would swallow enough air during class to come out bloated and farting. In the twenty or thirty minutes between classes, I would deflate. During the next class I’d sweat and hyperventilate and re-inflate. I did this through Contracts, Property, Torts and Civil Procedure. I couldn’t wait for the weekends, or winter break, or the summer, or some time that appeared to be ever receding. The PATH rides out to Newark and back to the city became unbearable. I couldn’t sit still. If the train stopped between stations – as it often did – all my classroom symptoms would flood me at accelerated speed. When the train moved the symptoms would flee. I could breathe again. This state of affairs came to a head over Thanksgiving break, which I was spending at my mother’s house while Liz stayed at hers to deal with the effects of telling her brother Jamie that someone had finally made a decent offer on their house and she and Jake had accepted it, thus forcing the sale. The Friday after the holiday, I had eaten dinner and settled into reading a personal injury case involving the cancer that asbestos had caused in the employees of the Johns Manville Corporation. I began to feel nauseous. I curled up on my bed. Moments later I went into a kind of convulsion, shivering, muscles contracting, unable to catch my breath. The arches of my feet spasmed painfully. Eventually I managed to uncurl my toes and flex them. After a searing pain jolted me upright I forced myself to unclench my stomach muscles. It went on and on. When the front door opened and my mother called up, I couldn’t answer. Eventually she appeared at my bedroom doorway.

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