Paul Tremblay's The Little Sleep
Released this past month, Paul Tremblay's The Little Sleep already had a wonderful pedigree, with such heavy hitters as Joe R. Lansdale and Stewart O'Nan praising the debut novel for its unique take on the private detective genre. Advance reviews, including a starred review in Library Journal, also indicated Tremblay had written a keeper.
What's the premise? PI Mark Genevich has narcolepsy, a condition that in its most severe forms includes hallucinations. Despite this, Genevich keeps trying to make a living. In The Little Sleep, he's drawn into a case involving missing fingers and risque photographs. The novel introduces a character who has a lot to prove, "if only he can stay awake long enough to do it."
As the Los Angeles Times wrote, "The fact that Mark can’t trust his own perceptions gives The Little Sleep an edge of existential crisis, as if he’s trying not just to solve a case but also the key to his consciousness. Tremblay does a fine job of developing this tension, describing the incidents in Mark’s hallucinations as if they are really happening, blurring the lines between interior and exterior until, like the character, we are looking at everything with a kind of double vision, sussing out the clues that will tell us what is true...The Little Sleep offers up an interesting gloss on the detective genre, in which the deepest and most profound mystery has less to do with any crime per se than with the enduring enigma of the self.”
With The Little Sleep picking up momentum, I thought I'd drop in on Tremblay and ask him for his take on what's happened since the novel came out...
Paul Tremblay on reactions to The Little Sleep...
"I've been quite happy with the response so far from readers, writers that I admire, and particularly pleased by David Ulin's review in the Los Angeles Times and Colette Bancroft's review in The St. Petersburg Times. It has been a fun couple of weeks since the release. The South Boston setting has generated a larger, more visceral response than I anticipated. Going into the book, I chose Southie because I had some familiarity with the area, and I thought the setting would work well within the larger theme of reality/memory/identity and how all are malleable and ultimately suspect. Given the slew of popular films and books set in South Boston within the last decade, I knew Southie had become a sort of cultural thumbtack, where most people are going into the book with a pre-conceived notion of what the city was or is. In choosing the historically Irish-Catholic, close-knit community and plugging in a reclusive, narcoleptic detective who really is not of that place (his Lithuanian parents were born and raised in Southie, but Mark grew up on the Cape), it was another aspect of reality to riff on, another opportunity to undermine expectations and further add to the unsure footing of my narcoleptic detective. In The Little Sleep, Southie is a strange and uneasy place for Mark. And now, looking back, I don't think I realized it when I wrote the book, but Mark's Southie somewhat reflects my own personal experience. I enjoyed living there for three years and I still go back when I can and take the kids to Castle Island. However, and this most certainly is partly due to my own hang-ups and neuroses, in Southie I felt like an outsider, never a real part of the neighborhood. And what's a neighborhood to the outsider, but a place full of secrets."
Check out Tremblay's dedicated blog for the novel, as well.