Verdict: TANGLED SHADOWS is a showcase of promising authorial talent in a largely undeveloped frame: passages of exceptional beauty are eclipsed by the stagnancy of the overarching non-narrative.
An aimless young man has a series of sexual encounters with women while navigating his way through an indifferent metropolis.
The romance of being adrift, famously immortalized in Jack Kerouac’s On The Road, has become a staple of literary fiction that has no clear narrative or plot. When we meet the narrator of this book, he’s texting a woman he finds to be déclassé (having met her at a drug-heavy party) for a quick no muss, no fuss hook-up. Ironically, after an encounter that is described in a decidedly un-erotic, clinical fashion, the two indulge in a variety of intoxicants, giving us a clue that our narrator is not that self-aware. He wakes up one morning to find her gone, without explanation. He spends New Year’s Eve having a Bud Light at an unremarkable bar. Later, he meets a woman he is genuinely excited to be with, only to cheat on her, in front of her, with one of her friends. When he loses this girl, he finds himself back in the unrelenting static of his existence, waking up, going out, returning to nothing and no one of consequence.
This sexual drifting and malaise is occasionally beautifully rendered: ”A gargantuan serpentine moving staircase with tar black plastic gums, clear dragonfly wings, and grooved teeth like an Aztec God ascends us to an afterworld: black, red, yellow, green and purple carpet design is like a Jackson Pollock drip-Bill Cosby sweater”. However, the larger narrative territory that author Richards is exploring isn’t particularly compelling or new. The story of being lost and alienated has been told innumerable times; in order for this work to rise above others like it, it must reveal some greater insight. As it stands, it is a readable sketch, not a gripping narrative.
TANGLED SHADOWS is a showcase of promising authorial talent in a largely undeveloped frame: passages of exceptional beauty are eclipsed by the stagnancy of the overarching non-narrative.