This City Breathing

This City Breathing

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Allen Wentworth has been alone for a long time. He is a decent, quiet man. He minds his own business. No one expects anything from him, and all he has ever wanted is to be left in peace. A retirement well-earned. It’s just what Allen deserves. After accidentally staying inside his Baltimore rowhouse for over a decade, Allen’s precious isolation is threatened by an unforeseen financial inconvenience. The city he must navigate now is one he knows only through accounts -nonfiction and otherwise- he has seen on TV or read about in the news. Exposed in a city unsafe, where breathing freely is not guaranteed, Allen finds an experience that might shake his understanding of the world, and his place in it.

PRAISE

Chad Dean is as thoughtful as wry here, a combination well suited for tracking and illuminating around his reluctant man down into the crowd, solitary Allen. The care the author takes with Baltimore of contemporary moments touches all the more in light of the errant and loosened retiree who seems intent on making himself ever more so, and deepens that narrative reflex to perceive to retreat, intensely attentively, into what his self-mitigated environment leaves.

-Douglas A. Martin


Reflecting on his novel, Chad Dean writes: "I spent a lot of time thinking about the kind of privilege that would allow a person to be able to completely withdraw from life, and the damage that might cause." This introduction founds a corollary in lines like this: "Allen has an exclusive kind of life.  Needs to get back to it." At the threshold of a Black Lives Matter protest, for example, Allen retracts. My heart sank, for this character, as moments of transformation, commitment, and engagement with life-as-it-is were squandered, again and again. Is Allen an extreme mirror for contemporary sociality so individuated that not even compassion for others can disrupt it?  Compassion, that is, as a fleeting state or emotion that changes nothing? This is "pandemic reading," but also a work of aftermath ("liquefaction") and a preface, too.

-Bhanu Kapil

In Chad Dean's 21st century noir -The City Breathing- the author posits: "Everything is much worse now. Especially in Baltimore." While I could write an evangelical tract taking exception to this widely held notion (life is hard/life is good), there is more than a little evidence to support the decline. For the love of Pete, the long-time G&A diner in the heart of Highlandtown just packed up its chili dogs and moved to the county after nearly a century at the corner of Eastern and Eaton. Dean's novel, however, makes the bad stuff a little easier to take (a spoonful of Old Bay helps the chicken wings go down) simply by allowing the reader to fall into a labyrinth of compelling narrative.

-Rafael Alvarez

Author: Chad Dean
Paperback
Publisher: Thera Books (forthcoming Summer, 2021)