Criticism & Features


Three Questions for Colin Harrison


NBCC member Adam Dunn, author of the forthcoming “Rivers of Gold,” about New York taxicabs, sent us a few words from Colin Harrison, whose new novel “The Finder” brings together homicidal sewage workers, high-rolling Wall Street players, corporate spies, disease-ridden old men and a young Chinese woman on the run.

Q. Given the buildup of surveillance technology around the city—something alluded to several times in “The Finder,“it still seems possible for people (good and bad) to go off the radar when they want to. Is it still possible to disappear?

A. If you’re not on the internet, you’re not using a cell phone, you’re not using an ATM, and you’re not using a credit card, and you’re only using cash, and you’re moving around, how’s anybody going to find you? Maybe they get lucky with a surveillance camera. Let’s say I had $50,000 in cash and someone says, “Hide from me, and I’ll try to find you within two months.” Do you think you could hide from someone for two months in the city? If you’re a good-looking 22 year-old girl and you arrive in NYC and no one knows you, all you have to do is go to the right party that night and that’s it. You’ve begun.

Q. Waste seems to be a prominent theme in “The Finder.” How come?

A. There’s two forms of waste in the book. There’s biological waste, which is representative of time and death. Dust to dust, shit to shit. But the waste generated by the office is representative of the relentless turbo-capitalism that we live in. Jin Li is trying to catch the waste that has not lost value yet. She’s recycling information in an illegitimate way. Someone could figure out the metaphysics of all the forms of waste in the book, but I haven’t. It just comes out of my dark underbrain. I probably don’t want to know what it all means.

Q.  China popped up in “Afterburn.” In “The Finder” it’s taken on a decidedly more aggressive stance. Is that how you view China?

A. I’ve been to China three times, and had a chance to see what the US is contending with. I follow developments in China pretty closely. I think that China is being felt all over the country now. I think New York City is involved with China in ways we don’t quite understand yet. Certainly the value of the dollar, interest rates, all that stuff is eventually traceable back to China—particularly how much debt of ours they own. Certainly they have tried to suck the essence of the sort of capitalism that we’ve perfected for their own advantage, and I think they’ll do a good job of that. They’ve [already] done a very good job of orchestrating all these technology transfers, which have and will continue to make them incredibly competitive. And while the US has been messing around with war and other things, China has just relentlessly gone ahead. I’m not a China-basher, and I’m not China-paranoid. They’re becoming a big player in our reality. The novel is in some ways my attempt at a reflection on that. I also like the idea of setting free this good-looking, dangerous Chinese woman in New York City. I think Jin Li herself is in New York City.—Adam Dunn

photo credit: Joyce Ravid