Sister Carrie is a first novel by a writer possessing such an original voice and slashing, surrealistic wit that she is sure to take her place at the forefront of cutting-edge fiction writers. Carrie Meeber leaves her stifling Florida home for Chicago, where she enters the related fields of advertising and prostitution. As an unflappable narrator makes inquiries into her bizarre life, a cartoonish, hyperkinetic, blaring street world envelops the reader.
Depraved characters parade themselves and their crass literary leanings; many keep journals, out of which Carrie is revealed with stylistic pyrotechnics. Fairbanks’s scrappy, fantastic, debauched characters reveal themselves as well in hot rapid monologue and dialogue.
There is something of Kathy Acker in Sister Carrie, something of Ronald Firbank, William Burroughs, Mark Leyner perhaps, even the Joyce of Finnegans Wake. (And Theodore Dreiser’s Sister Carrie revamped, accessorized, given riot grrrl attitude.) But it is finally a tour de force from a young woman writer with a voice all her own and a sardonic worldview perfect for the irony-clad nineties.