‘Ultraluminous’ by Katherine Faw

Cover00 (6)Jordan Lawson at Bookforum:

A woman with a set of fake names—Kata, Katya, Kasia, Katushka—has returned to New York after eighteen years in Dubai. Glass towers now crowd the Williamsburg waterfront and women yell at her to get out of the bike lane. Bodega cigarettes cost fourteen dollars and smoking in bars is against the law. It’s unclear why she’s come back, and even more unclear why, at eighteen, she left in the first place. “New York wants to trick me, make me think it’s gone soft,” she thinks. But bricks of heroin still come stamped: VERSACE and HERMÈS, then DRONE, RIHANNA, ISIS. She still works as a prostitute. “I have given myself a year to quit: heroin, whoring,” she announces, but life slides by all the same. “Again and again on a different day I wake up in New York.”

Ultraluminous, Katherine Faw’s second novel, envisions a life lived at the intersection of valuable and expendable. The book tracks the slight shifts and changes that its many-named protagonist—"K" for short—makes in her life as she half-heartedly wrestles with the forces that both ensure her survival and hasten her demise. In Faw’s cruel world there’s little to hope for, but plenty to fear. K wants a different life, but her days creep along with enough success to warrant surrender. In a universe trending only toward chaos, the novel seems to ask, how can you risk change?

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