My reading back list is notoriously long, only accounting for the books I have bought, so finally reading a book I’ve known about for nearly a year is a small feat. I hadn’t even bought The Science of Paul by Aaron Philip Clark until the week before Christmas, so it should have sat in my stacks for another 2-3 months, depending on my life as I know it. The purchase, however, was spurned by an Op-Ed take over of Heath Lowrance’s Psycho-Noir blog where Clark discusses the erosion of Hollywood, LA, creative markets, et al. It wasn’t so much the context, which thoughts I was inline with, but the cadence of the voice. The harmonics of language. If Clark wrote this lush one off commentary, I could only imagine what his novel, which has garnered notable praise, would be like. I bought Clark’s The Science of Paul that day.
Aaron Philip Clark doesn’t disappoint as he slips the reader into the life of the eponymous protagonist, Paul Little, slowly unraveling the truth about Paul, an ex-con walking the precarious edge of freedom with his parole winding to an end on the streets of Philadelphia. Paul’s story starts out bleak, in true noir fashion, at the bottom of the proverbial barrel with nowhere to go but up, to freedom and to a new life, but Philadelphia like Paul’s past doesn’t want to let go. All Paul wants to do is escape his present life, to head down to his Grandfather’s farm in North Carolina and live a simple life again. Unfortunately, it feels as though the city, Philadelphia, conspires against his every actions, met with violence and consequence.
Had this been written by a less deft writer, The Science of Paul, would have been a fast paced, high action Saturday popcorn flick type of book. Paul has moments of intensity, but Clark doesn’t make a dance of the violence, a spectacle to entertain the masses. The conflicts are moments of action and reaction, preceded and followed by contemplation and characterization. Carried through the thoughts and actions of Paul, Clark creates an effortless dialog with the reader to which by the end imbues the regrets, self-doubt and the want to relinquish to the fate Philadelphia holds for men like Paul.
Lyrical, emotive, abrupt, and defiant, The Science of Paul is definitely one of my favorite books from 2011. I wish I had read it sooner.
You can learn more about The Science of Paul and where to buy from the publisher, New Pulp Press.