Powertown

Michael Lind, Author
Michael Lind, Author HarperCollins Publishers $23 (0p) ISBN 978-0-06-017510-8
Reviewed on: 09/02/1996
Release date: 09/01/1996
Analog Audio Cassette - 978-0-694-51734-3
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A lurid cross-section of the nation's capital as cynical as Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is earnest, Lind's election-year fiction debut couldn't have come at a more propitious time. The premise is clever but schematic: everyone in Lind's Washington--from high-priced lobbyists to gang members in the 'hood, whether they're struggling to survive or merely jockeying for position and affluence--is enmeshed in one vast web of power and ambition. There is Graciela, a Salvadoran single mother and a maid in the Capitol Hill townhouse belonging to Ross, an emotionally vacuous, gay PR rep. There's 26-year-old Stef Schonfeld, a journalist at Perspective, ""Washington's leading political monthly,"" who helps blows the lid off of ""Piercegate,"" a scandal involving a Washington power broker with ties to drug gangs and shady real estate deals. On the lowest social rung is Evander Johnson, a teenager desperate for the security afforded by membership in the Krew, a southeast D.C. gang, who gets caught in a blood feud between rival gangbangers. Trying to climb from wannabe to izzenee (as in ""Izzenee some kind of government official?"") before becoming a wuzzenee (""Wuzzenee somebody in the Nixon administration?""), the denizens of Powertown evince many of the same fears and aspirations. Yet unlike the denizens of Clockers or Primary Colors, two novels to which it will draw comparison, these characters sometimes come across as cardboard constructs. Lind, an editor at the New Republic (Up from Conservatism; Forecasts, June 17) writes studied sentences that grow strained at times, as when he attempts to capture street dialect. Lacking the range and the emotional empathies of a more accomplished novelist, he has nonetheless fashioned a fast-paced and stylish tale about the corruption of power and the power of corruption. (Sept.)
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