Neon in Daylight
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Compact Disc (1/9/2018)
January 2018 Indie Next List
“There are plenty of novels about hedonistic young people, washed-up alcoholic writers, or aimless academics struggling to find themselves. Few of them are written with the intelligence, freshness, honesty, style, observational eye, and command of language on display in Hermione Hoby's impressive debut, Neon in Daylight. As the lives of the three main characters (and a cat named Joni Mitchell) converge against the backdrop of a lonely, doomed, and dying downtown New York City, you'll find yourself missing your bus stop because you cannot put down this book.”
— Nadine Vassallo, Book Soup, West Hollywood, CA
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Summer 2018 Reading Group Indie Next List
“In an ocean of New York City coming-of-age novels, it’s hard to stand out—but Neon in Daylight
does. Hermione Hoby writes with prose so compelling and gorgeous that after I finished the book I looked her up to see if she was a poet. The characters she creates are interesting and sometimes infuriating, and I felt my heart break with them. It’s also one of those rare books that gets the sensory detail just right, that made me feel oppressed by heat and almost sweaty. I loved this book. I picked it up on a whim and didn’t put it down until I was done.”
— Sarah Malley, Newtonville Books, Newton Centre, MA
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A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice A radiant first novel. . . . Neon in Daylight] has antecedents in the great novels of the 1970s: Renata Adler's Speedboat, Elizabeth Hardwick's Sleepless Nights, Joan Didion's Play It as It Lays. . . . Precision--of observation, of language--is Hoby's gift. Her sentences are sleek and tailored. Language molds snugly to thought. --Parul Sehgal, The New York Times
What do you get when a writer of extreme intelligence, insight, style and beauty chronicles the lives of self-absorbed hedonists--The Great Gatsby
, Bright Lights, Big City
, and now Neon in Daylight
. Hermione Hoby paints a garish world that drew me in and held me spellbound. She is a marvel. --Ann Patchett, author of Commonwealth
New York City in 2012, the sweltering summer before Hurricane Sandy hits. Kate, a young woman newly arrived from England, is staying in a Manhattan apartment while she tries to figure out her future. She has two unfortunate responsibilities during her time in America: to make regular Skype calls to her miserable boyfriend back home, and to cat-sit an indifferent feline named Joni Mitchell.
The city has other plans for her. In New York's parks and bodegas, its galleries and performance spaces, its bars and clubs crowded with bodies, Kate encounters two strangers who will transform her stay: Bill, a charismatic but embittered writer made famous by the movie version of his only novel; and Inez, his daughter, a recent high school graduate who supplements her Bushwick cafe salary by enacting the fantasies of men she meets on Craigslist. Unmoored from her old life, Kate falls into an infatuation with both of them.
Set in a heatwave that feels like it will never break, Neon In Daylight
marries deep intelligence with captivating characters to offer us a joyful, unflinching exploration of desire, solitude, and the thin line between life and art.
Catapult, 9781936787753, 288pp.
Publication Date: January 9, 2018
About the Author
Hermione Hoby grew up in south London and has lived in New York since 2010. She is a freelance journalist who writes about culture and gender for publications including The New Yorker, The Guardian, The New York Times, and The Times Literary Supplement. She also writes the "Stranger of the Week" column for The Awl. Neon in Daylight is her first novel.
1. Neon in Daylight is set in New York York city in the summer before Hurricane Sandy. Do you think this setting is necessary to the story? How would a different setting change it?
2. The book takes its title from the Frank O’Hara poem “A Step Away From Them”: “Neon in daylight is a / great pleasure, as Edwin Denby would / write, as are light bulbs in daylight.” Why do you think Hoby chose this title, and what do you think it communicates about the themes in the book?
3. Shortly after arriving in New York, Kate begins chasing new experiences, altering her appearance, and pushing herself past her comfort zone. How do you think her relationships with Bill and Inez contribute to or are shaped by her newfound freedom? How does her relationship with George affect (or not affect) her time in New York?
4. Hermione Hoby has written that “the prime intoxication of any city is the probability of chance encounter, but this feels exceptionally heightened in New York City, a place of intersections both literal (it’s really a giant grid) and figurative (there’s coincidence to be had in a population of 8.5 million and counting).” How do you see serendipity influencing the plot, and how does it magnify other themes present in the book?
5. Discuss the strained relationship between Bill and Inez. How did their rapport surprise you (or not)? Why do you think they were both drawn to Kate?
6. In her review for The New York Times, Parul Sehgal wrote that the three characters were “propelled less by desire than by a desire for desire; for any kind of strong feeling, really.” How do you see that idea influencing the actions of the main characters? Do you agree or disagree with the sentiment?
7. At its heart, Neon in Daylight is about a young person both lost in and liberated by the blank canvas of a new city. Have you felt a similar experience when moving to a new city, or even starting at a new school or job? Was it frustrating or familiar to watch Kate navigate this space?