“SoMa”–gritty and insightful

Scott, Kemble. “SoMa”, Kensington Books, 2007.

Gritty and Insightful

Amos Lassen

The literary drought seems to be over. I received a large box of new titles from Kensington Books and al of them are good reads (as usual from Kensington). “SoMa” by Kemble Scott 8is the first review I am writing of the good batch but have patience because there are more to come.

Scott gives us an inside look at the underground of San Francisco and the book is an eye opener and a well written eye opener at that. The word “SoMa” has several definitions but the one it refers to in Scott’s novel means south of Market, a neighborhood in San Fran. And what a neighborhood it is! It is a world of restaurants and bail bondsmen as well as expensive loft apartments but it is also home to those who are “over” the whole dot com business and they are looking for something to replace what the computer age engendered. They are searching and they are restless and they seem to find what they want in the world of sex—both kinky and regular and in the drug subculture. But for those not in the know, someone has to show them around. We visit private sex cubs and meet rent boys and hustlers who populate this world. And what do we find there in the world of “SoMa”? There is disillusionment, identity theft, loneliness and nihilism and even love as fleeting as it may be. Our characters wander relentlessly with no planned direction and no goal as they embark on their quest to find something real, something that will give them a self identity and a sense of belonging.

Our characters include Raphe who is a writer with a foot in and torn by two worlds, Lauren, raised with money but existing on the outside and moving further away from reality, Mark, intense and hard, whose life simply means games to him and beautiful Julie who is little more than a pawn in the game of life. When these characters are ignited, a flame that is almost inextinguishable flares up.

This is a world that many of us will never know—it’s dark and gritty and raw; more than that it is a real world. “SoMa” tells us what really goes on the neighborhood south of Market Street, a world of extreme extremes. Here is the story of a warped and twisted journey and the compromises he has to make to achieve a form of redemption. It is almost like reading of the last days of an empire and it is a world that happens to exist in many of the cities of the world.

“SoMa” is one of those books that pulls you in and grabs you and holds you until you close the covers. It is not a pretty story but it is a real story. We learn of secrets—some to terrible to even think about and it explores the nature of man in ways most of us have never considered.
It is written in an “in your face: style that brings you into the story. I felt as if I had been grabbed by the back of the neck and dragged into places to where I would never et foot. At times, I felt like Alice when she entered Wonderland.

No, it is not a pretty book but it cries out to be read. Scott’s style is wonderful. His character development is nothing short of amazing and his handling of the English language is fantastic, considering what he writes a bout.

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