Tuesday, March 10, 2015

What I've Been Reading: City Noir

Istanbul Noir edited by Mustafa Ziyalan and Amy Spangler

Ok, do you all know about Akashic Books City Noir series? So far there are sixty-nine titles (I think I counted that correctly)-- each is an anthology of noir short stories, taking place in a specific location, with the stories written by authors who are from there or live there, or write about the city a lot. Many of the volumes are international--if I counted correctly, 24 of the currently-out titles are international, with locations ranging from Paris to Manila, Kingston to St. Petersburg, Tehran to Copenhagen. (There are also 3 titles coming out this summer-- Providence, Beirut, and Marseille-- and another 21 that have been announced. Of the 24 that aren't out yet, 16 are international.)

I love this series so hard. It's the best of armchair travel, because you're going into neighborhoods and situations you don't usually get (because, well, noir). As the authors are mostly local, or write like a local, the city is the setting, and it's a character that links the stories, but there's no expositional tour guide voice that can run through books that take place in a location the readership might not know very well. There's just the city and culture in the background and part of the story, which in a way is more enlightening. Between all the stories, you usually get a wide range of neighborhoods, people, and economic status--and not a lot of the touristy stuff we usually see. While the concept itself is diverse, there's also tremendous diversity within each volume. Also, with the international ones, you get to read a lot of authors that haven't published in English before, or that you might not otherwise have come across.

So, as much as I read and love this series, I haven't reviewed it yet because, well, Istanbul Noir is the only one I've actually finished. Not because the others aren't good, but they're short stories! So I tend to dip in and out of the collections, and then they're due back at the library, and so I'll return it and pick up a new city. I've found short stories are the best bus reading, because that's usually how long I have. I haven't really gotten into short stories before, but I think my friend and co-worker Megan put a finger on it when she explained why she doesn't like them--they're too short for her to really connect to and like a character. That's the best part about noir--you're not really supposed to like most of these people.

So! If you're looking for some great short stories by authors you may not know, or want a new look at a city you love, or a very different introduction to one you've never been to, this series is for you.

Also, what cities do you wish they covered? Personally, I'm crossing my fingers for Shanghai, Tokyo, Hong Kong (and maybe a separate Kowloon volume, like they split up the boroughs of New York City?), Cape Town, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, and Karachi.

Book Provided by... my local library

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