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Alligator [Paperback]

Lisa Moore
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
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Paperback, June 15 2006 CDN $14.40  

Book Description

June 15 2006

Lisa Moore's Alligator gives dramatic birth to a new kind of fiction: North Atlantic Gothic. The story moves with the swiftness of a gator in attack mode through the lives of a group of brilliantly rendered characters in contemporary St. John's, Newfoundland — a city whose spiritual location is somewhere in the heart of Flannery O'Connor country. Its denizens jostle each other in uneasy arabesques of desire, greed, lust, and ambition, juxtaposed with a yearning for purity, depth, and redemption. Meet Madeleine, the driven aging filmmaker whose mission is to complete a Bergmanesque magnum opus before she dies; Frank, a young man of innocence and determination whose life is a strange anthology of unpredictable dangers; Valentin, the sociopathic Russian refugee whose predatory tendencies threaten everyone he encounters; and Colleen, at seventeen a hard-edged female Holden Caulfield, drawn inexorably to the places where alligators thrive. In these pages humanity is a bizarre combination of the reptilian and the saintly. Listen to its heartbeat, and be moved — and delighted.


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Product Description

From Amazon

On the opening page of this mesmerizing first novel by the author of Open, a man puts his head into the mouth of an alligator, with grisly results. Part of an industrial training video, the incident is shocking yet strangely static, stripped bare of emotion. The girl watching the video has seen it many times before and her listless fascination with its random inevitability sets the tone for an unsettling exploration of the reptilian side of human nature. Like the man in the video, Lisa Moore's characters knowingly, and even willfully, place themselves in danger. Seventeen-year-old Colleen reels recklessly from vigilante-style eco-terrorism to drunken one-night stands with strangers in downtown St. John's. Her aunt Madeleine (maker of the alligator video) ignores the signs of serious illness in order to finish one last film. Madeleine's leading actor, Isobel, perversely gives herself up to the influence of Valentin, a rapacious Russian drug dealer whose cold-blooded lust for cash ignites a violent series of events. Only Frank, the young hot-dog vendor who lives in the bed-sit below the Russian, shies away from danger, though he is dragged into it nonetheless: "He waited in case something else was coming. He waited for something else. He waited for things not to be the way they were. But everything was the way it was."

Cutting rapidly from one point of view to another, roaming freely between past and present in a single scene, and lingering sensuously over miniscule physical details (like the jar of faded forget-me-nots on Frank's windowsill), Lisa Moore is a stylist in a class with Virginia Woolf and Jeannette Winterson. While her dialogue can seem unnaturally confessional and the number of characters makes it difficult to identify with anyone for long, Alligator is a triumph. No one else in mainstream Canadian fiction writes quite like Lisa Moore. --Lisa Alward --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

The powerful American debut of Canadian bestseller Moore does for Newfoundland what Empire Falls did for dying smalltown Maine and The Sportswriter did for suburban New Jersey. Seventeen-year-old Colleen Clark and her mother, Beverly, can't overcome their grief over the sudden death of David, Beverly's husband and Colleen's stepfather. While Beverly copes by dieting and retreating into herself, Colleen downloads videos of beheadings off the Internet and tries her hand at eco-terrorism ("I wanted to change things," she says about dumping sugar into a bulldozer's gas tank) before running away to Louisiana"where alligators troll the bayou. Madeleine, Beverly's older sister, scrambles to finish her cinematic opus before her heart"heavy with longing for her youth and gradually weakening due to an unnamed medical condition"gives out. Frank, a 19-year-old still reeling from his mother's death from cancer, obsesses over Colleen and finds himself intertwined with Valentin, a Russian gangster with his own tormented past. Powerfully drawn secondary characters"an actress in Madeleine's film, Valentin's lover"add depth to this generous novel. (Sept. 21)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A slow, monotonous read Jan. 31 2006
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
This book was a Christmas gift. I began reading the book with an open-minded attitude, hoping for something great. About a 1/3 of the way through, I set the book down and decided I'd had enough.
I read, and read, and read about the characters but nothing was happening. It seems like a very long set up to a story, with nothing actually taking place. The characters that Moore has created aren't even very interesting, like stale bread. Maybe things begin to happen halfway through Alligator, but Moore couldn't hold my interest long enough for me to get to that point.
There's so much praise for this book, but I honestly don't see it. It's long and drawn out. I started thinking "why do I care about these people?", "how is this person relevant to the plot?", "where's the plot?" - snore.
If you like reading about the details of characters, without the characters actually doing anything interesting, this is the book for you. I, on the otherhand, am completely disappointed. And bored.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By J. Tobin Garrett TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
This book pulled me in with the first chapter. The style was refreshing and fun to read, however, I found that it didn't sustain throughout the whole book. Or, rather, the style sustained, but the freshness fell away and began to impede the story as I was really aware of the stylistic tricks in the language of the book. I'm speaking here of the very long sentences with many clauses linked by the word "and", as well as the sometimes esoteric shifts in time and the fragmented story lines. I don't need my books to be linear and clear-cut, but I felt that this book strayed too often in different directions and never spent enough time in any one significant spot to really develop the story fully.

I gave it three stars because there are some really great parts that I did enjoy. If I think of the book as merely fragments of character then I like it a bit more than if I imagine it as a cohesive book. I love books that cast wide nets with lots of characters and story lines, but I recognize that it's a hard thing to reign in and keep control of and I think it got away from Moore here a bit too often.

All in all, I found my mind wandering away from the book too many times while I was reading it, just unable to be captured by what was happening on the page. I think I would give Moore another shot though. Maybe try one of her short story books as it seems she would be good at writing short stories.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Lisa Moore:Alligator. March 24 2014
By Hana
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book is very well written, and is a mature prose by a rather new author. It gives us a panorama of events, in the present and in the past, viewed through the main characters. It is unmistakably taking place in Newfoundland, Canada.
In a sense, Alligator is much more developed than Moore's later title, February, but February is a comprehensible story of a disaster, and its consequences for individual lives and the society. Alligator is much darker than February. There is no disaster, the tragedy is intrinsic to the characters of the people. In the end one person is dead, one came home, one is in jail for life, and one escaped an attempt on his life, even though we don't quite know how, or what it took him to fully recover.
Towards the end the story breaks down and the books seems strangely unfinished. There is, of course, no need to tell a whole story. It is possible to enter somewhere in the middle and exit wherever the writer wants, but the beginning of this book did not point to such type of a narration.
If you want to read good prose, you should not miss this book, but keep in mind that this is a very dark story. Is it, perhaps, a new "The Way we Live Now" for the 21st century?
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars First Chapter Zings Feb. 21 2006
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
but then it gets into a ramble with alternating stories -- architectonic at its worst. The jumpy quality to her early stories, rambling snippets of experience -- she probably writes down people and events in notebooks then gleans them as background. I've read more than half and already am skipping ahead to see where things are going -- and as for the review that said "thriller" ?? What?? Nothing so far sets up one in the least. I would have to agree with other comments here, the plot is lacking and she can't hold it together with magical language (like Will Self who readily admits he is terrible with plots.) I really wanted to like this book, and it's decent, but not much more.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing to Say the Least Jan. 6 2010
Format:Paperback
Wanting to support "local" authors I saw that this book was written by an author from St John's, Newfoundland and just had to get it for my friend who lives in Newfoundland. I wasn't convinced it would be a masterpiece but was surprised to find I really enjoyed it.

I have to admit, most books that win prestigious awards are beyond me and I can't seem to really get into them; this was the exception to the rule. Alligator's chapters are separated by a different character leaving you wondering how everyone connects and what happens with the person you just left behind. Lisa Moore did a wonderful job of having me relate to each character, namely Colleen and Frank who describe their own struggles and trepidations while working to achieve their own greatness, whatever that may be.

I'm glad I took the time to read through this book before passing it on and trust that whoever reads it next will enjoy it as much as I did or more.

Thanks for reading,

Sarah Butland
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