I’ve previously expressed my dislike of the Wall of Text – massive paragraphs over a page in length which make you feel that you’re trying to parse meaning from a wordsearch grid, not a story. The opening sentence to Narcopolis is almost 7 (seven) pages long.
I’m tempted to label this as ‘The Indian Trainspotting,’ and it’s definitely a valid comparison in some ways. Obviously there’s the drugs, but the structures of both share a certain episodic, tangential nature whereby you could view them as short story collections tied together by only the loosest of framing devices, as well as dialogue that is very dialect heavy. However, while neither book shies away from the more visceral humiliations of addiction, Narcopolis doesn’t take the same prurient joy in describing them as does Trainspotting (but then very few things do). There’s murder and prostitution and misfiring bowels, but at no point does the narrator end up diving down a shit-stained toilet in search of a half-used suppository. It does have a cameo appearance from Colin Hay though, so there’s that.
It’s all very hazy. My experience with narcotics certainly doesn’t stretch to what’s described here, but the deprivations visited upon the various characters somehow seem more immediate through being described in such an off-hand, muted manner. Much as how (I imagine) a junkie might view misfortunes suffered by their acquaintances; as just something that happens and is of little concern unless it gets in the way of your next fix.
The final section jumps forward in time to almost the present day and the conclusions (or lack thereof) of several character arcs are, in their own ways, both shocking and unsurprising. The whole book wraps itself in this contradictory fug of blissful unsentimentality. It seems that this book is a result of the author’s own addictions, and while I wouldn’t wish addiction upon anybody, at least some good has come of it here.