Alexander Inglis's Reviews > The Metropolis Case

The Metropolis Case by Matthew Gallaway
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's review
Apr 24, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: gay-positive, literary-fiction, first-novel

A somewhat daring first novel, Matthew Gallaway's The Metropolis Case stiches together four lives using Wagner's most revolutionary opera,Tristan und Isolde as its thread. Lucien Marchand is a young man growing up in Europe in the 1840s who aspires to be a singer; Anna Prus, whom we first meet in 1960, is a celebrated Wagnerian singer and later professor at Juilliard; Maria is a late 1970s teenager, growing up in Pittsburgh, whose whole life revolves around opera (making for a somewhat odd childhood but leads her to Juilliard); and Martin, a divorced, gay New York lawyer who, at 41, partly triggered by the events of 9/11 which are played out from his office window, comes to the music of Tristan through the haze of drugs, punk bands and lost loves. Structurally, the novel cycles, chapter by chapter, from one character to the next, unveiling their lives and staging events to knit the players together.

The novel is at its best in the self-contained vignettes where Gallaway relaxes and indulges in wry humour and observations of the scene from the character's point of view; in other places, contrivances stick out unsatisfyingly. The worst case is the gimmick Gallaway relies on finally to bring all four stories to a single place which, I confess, once I saw it coming left me feeling disappointed. Gallaway also relies too often on death to alter circumstances rather than introduce a character with significant flaws to wreck havoc. Our four main characters, in the end, are kinda nice folks ... the story needs a bit more grit.

Notwithstanding, it was an entertaining read as the reviews below reflect. You do not need to be an opera lover, or a Wagnerite to enjoy the story; but you may need to know it has a very gay positive context slathered into these intertwined lives.

Reviews have appeared in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, The New York Times, The Washington Post and Lambda Literary Review Online.
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