Few places in this country, or maybe even the world, have as unique an identity as New York City. Stories pour from between the high rises and bubble up from underneath the crowded streets. In Death of the Dying City Matthew Taub brings us one with such vivid detail and raw imagery you can almost feel the sun baking the blacktop.
The book centers around the life of Mark Newstein, a young, naive attorney who finds himself working in his father’s firm, but under a different partner, who basically hates his guts. Mark is sent out time and again on grunt work cases and begins to sink under the grime, corruption, and utter disregard for people he witnesses on a daily basis. Can he find a way out? Can he prove you can still be a good person in this industry, in this town?
From page one Taub peppers the page with details not only about Mark and the other characters, but also the environment. It’s done with such clarity that you immediately recognize your dealing with an author who knows this city, not like the back of his hand, but the blood running through the veins in his hand. Its a part of who he is.
At times that raw glimpse into that world can be jarring, especially in the dialogue Taub employs, which could be called generously at times, “colorful.” Yet it never feels exploitative or used purely for shock value, instead only to give deeper and richer texture to the world he lived in.
As you move through Mark’s story and feel him struggle to see a light at the end of the tunnel, you have to resist the urge to pull your own hair in frustration. The world he lives in is bleak and oppressive, but you turn every page hoping for some piece of hope to break through, like the cliche of the rose growing in the broken down parking lot.
It took me a little while to get into the rhythm of Taub’s writing style, but once I did I was racing through the book in no time. Death of the Dying City challenges the reader to believe in something good when the world around gives no reason to do so.