cover image Random Acts of Senseless Violence

Random Acts of Senseless Violence

Jack Womack. Atlantic Monthly Press, $21 (255pp) ISBN 978-0-87113-577-3

A sort of prequel to his previous novels (Ambient, Elvissey, etc.), Womack's latest may be his best, a dark and riveting look at where our disintegrating, crime-ridden society may be headed. The only difference between Womack's near-future New York City and our own is that everything is just that much worse. Police and the National Guard patrol the poorer areas as though they were occupied territories; riot fires burn continuously in Queens and Brooklyn; jobs are as scarce as affordable homes and the streets are perilous. Womack displays this bleak world through the diary of 12-year-old Lola Hart, a student at a private girls' school whose financially strapped family moves to Manhattan's poor and troubled Upper West Side, on the edge of Harlem. There two new friends, Iz and Jude, teach her how to steal and instruct her in the ways of the mean streets. As bad turns to worse for her family, despair twists Lola into a vengeful killer. With a street-slick future-speak worthy of A Clockwork Orange and an unflinching eye for the degeneration of our cities, Womack portrays a relentlessly convincing tomorrow that will leave no reader unmoved. (Sept.)