Lydia Kiesling in Slate:
If you’ve ever ridden public transportation in a major city, you’ve seen hip young women with their headphones and their lace-up boots, their black jeans and faux fur, their deep V’s and slightly tortured vibes. Young women are always the locus of attention, both subtle and unsubtle, in any given space, but these beautiful tousled birds arouse particular interest; men crane their necks to look at their tattoos, less stylish women wonder if they too should attempt a bold red lip or, god forbid, a backless T. I see a young woman like this and wonder where she is going, what work she does. I wonder what she is listening to and the source of her intent expression.
If you read The Ghost Network, Catie Disabato’s excellent debut novel, you know that this girl might look preoccupied because she’s tracking a missing pop star to a secret underground train station, where the pop star may or may not have been taken by devotees of a European anarcho-surrealist movement of the 1960s. She may be worrying about the possibility of grave bodily harm at the hands of a revanchist splinter group. She may be pondering her death. She’s probably listening to the National.
To arrive at this awareness, you have to go through a number of turnstiles. In fact, there are so many consecutive entrances to The Ghost Network that I initially found it difficult to get into the story—as though the novel, like a secret underground portal, were disguised by its architect to look like something of little interest. The book begins with a note from the author, “Catie Disabato”—who could be, but more likely is not, the real author Catie Disabato—explaining that the text before you is one Disabato inherited from a man named Cyrus Archer. Archer’s manuscript begins with an epigraph from the rock critic Ellen Willis, before Archer explains in his own prologue that his book arose from a New Yorker article written by a former lover. Then we have a second epigraph, a quote from the Molly Metropolis from a purported article in the New York Times Magazine.