And Now You Can Go by Vendela Vida, reading at Powell’s City of Books with Julie Orringer, 1005 W. Burnside, 228-4651, Wednesday September 10, free
At the risk of ruining my already dubious reputation, I divulge the following information: Sometimes I get crushes on literary characters.

First it was Lady Brett Ashley from The Sun Also Rises. Then it was Joelle van Dyne from Infinite Jest. And now it's Ellis, the main character from And Now You Can Go. I have a crush on Ellis for the following reasons:

1. "Nothing is personal," she says on page 43. "Not who you want to die with or who you want to love. It's all nonspecific."

2. She dances alone to Guns N' Roses' "Paradise City" on page 66.

3. She clearly states that she hates Sandra Bullock on page 77.

See? Shit, how can you not have a crush on her?

Ellis is the main character, narrator, and focal point of Vendela Vida's And Now You Can Go, and in the first few pages, some creepy guy in a park points a gun at her. 21-year-old college student Ellis talks her way out of it by awkwardly quoting poetry (which perhaps should be number four on the above list). It's an event that looms over the rest of the book--but more importantly, it's a setup that allows Ellis' rambling voice to create the text.

Plot-wise, Vida lets the book roam through a Salinger-esque, meandering account of Ellis' changed (and unchanged) life after her encounter. Since Ellis' voice is one of lackadaisical obsession, sometimes the quirky first-person narrative works and sometimes it doesn't--she catalogues minutia equally with the big events of the book, and the resulting account is at times brilliant and at others tiresome. The parts that work are when it feels Ellis is in charge of the text, but when plot points rise up, Vida's presence can be felt. Perhaps because of Ellis' believability, Vida's presence feels intrusive, as if she's pushing Ellis and the reader to an emotional conclusion that doesn't need to be there.

Despite the book's occasionally awkward mechanisms, Vida's created a multi-layered character who transcends the page. For that alone, the novel is an impressive accomplishment. Ellis' voice completely convinces and enthralls, making And Now You Can Go succeed in a way few narrative-driven novels can. ERIK HENRIKSEN