In 1999, the Brooklyn neighborhood of Williamsburg is hit by an epidemic of suicide. The burgeoning hipster enclave rapidly becomes a macabre spectacle, witnessed and deftly described by Benson, a reflexively cynical Gen-Xer and New York transplant. As his friends kill themselves off and the “Bug” spreads to Manhattan, Benson forms a crew to clean up the mess of his adopted city, fighting against hopelessness. A testament to the human spirit, Killing Williamsburg follows in the haunting tradition set by Albert Camus’ The Plague and José Saramago’s Blindness.
"Spinelli offers sharp and stylish prose." —Publisher's Weekly
It is 1999 in Spinelli's dark debut novel, and people are killing themselves in alarming numbers in the increasingly hipster-dominated enclave of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Benson, the book's 20-something, educated, and underemployed narrator, reacts with his customary detached cynicism to the gruesome trend, dismaying his live-in girlfriend Olive, who copes by starting a suicide hotline. Olive moves back home to San Francisco after people in the couple's circle begin to commit suicide, leaving Benson behind. He supplements his part-time job lighting parties by working as a "dancing boy" at the events, adding to the darkly carnivalesque vibe. The epidemic spreads into Manhattan, but the authorities and media remain strangely silent as hundreds of thousands die. Benson's cynicism turns into resilience as the world around him falls apart; he is one of the misfits given the hard work of cleaning up after the dead. Spinelli offers sharp and stylish prose when describing the bizarre suicides, but allows info-dump exposition to interrupt the narrative flow. The life and times of a New York Gen-Xer don't necessarily hold much interest beyond that demographic, but Benson's nihilistic views may resonate with readers in their 20s facing an uncertain economic future.