Set just over a decade ago in New York during the Occupy Wall Street protests, though far from constrained by strict historical accuracy, The Visitors, the second novel by Jessi Jezewska Stevens, manages to fold its protagonist’s mental collapse and, ultimately, that of functioning society into a narrative tending towards mundane insularity. This isn’t intended as a criticism of The Visitors, which draws characters whose flaws and foibles feel realistic and striking, and which benefits from Stevens’ elegant prose style and dry, almost omniscient asides.
It’s centred on C, a fortysomething woman trying to keep her art shop in business while blundering between the sort of relationships that vacillate between social and sexual (Stevens has an especially keen eye for writing scenes of mediocre sex, it should be said). All very middle-class NYC, not everyone’s idea of sympathetic. In the background, meanwhile, hackers are fritzing large sections of the US national grid – affecting everyone who uses it, regardless of status – and C, when alone, is treated to running social/tech commentary by a hallucinatory gnome.
As a device to track her own unravelling (think Harvey Rabbit) while emphasising that in wider society, it has legs, although the gnome never feels especially integrated into the plot relative to the frequency of its appearances. The Visitors is one of those novels where, without being much invested in its personnel or their tribulations, you find yourself becoming subtly engrossed.
The Visitors, Jessi Jezewska Stevens (And Other Stories)
Price: £14.99. Info: here
words NOEL GARDNER
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