Falconer (Czapnik)

The Falconer 
Dana Czapnik, 2019
Atria Books
288 pp.

New York, 1993
Seventeen-year-old Lucy Adler, a street-smart, trash-talking baller, is often the only girl on the public courts.

At turns quixotic and cynical, insecure and self-possessed, Lucy is in unrequited love with her best friend and pick-up teammate Percy, scion to a prominent New York family who insists he wishes to resist upper crust fate.

As she navigates this complex relationship with all its youthful heartache, Lucy is seduced by a different kind of life—one less consumed by conventional success and the approval of men.

A pair of provocative female artists living in what remains of New York’s bohemia invite her into their world, but soon even their paradise begins to show cracks.

Told in vibrant, quicksilver prose, The Falconer is a "wholly original coming-of-age story" (Chloe Benjamin, New York Times bestselling author of The Immortalists), providing a snapshot of the city and America through the eyes of the children of the baby boomers grappling with privilege and the fading of radical hopes. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Birth—ca. 1978-79 (?)
Where—New York City, New York, USA
Education—M.F.A., Hunter College
Currently—lives in New York City

Dana Czapnik is the debut author of the 2019 novel, The Falconer. She was born and raised in New York City and, when younger, was obsessed with basket ball like her heroine Lucy Adler—though not as good she claims. "I was just so-so," Czapnik told an interviewer at The Rumpus.

To begin building her writer's chops, Czapnik spent her early adult years as a freelance fact-checker, researcher and journalist in sports—she wrote about girls' field hockey, Nascar, and Woman's college basketball. Later she worked in public relations and marketing for a number of professional sports organizations, finally ending up at the U.S. Tennis Association. She wrote athlete profiles, as well as game reports and match summaries. Her challenge in sports writing was always to keep the same-old-same-old fresh, descriptive, and engaging—a challenge she believes helped with writing her novel.

In addition to receiving a Hertog Fellowship from Hunter College, where she earned her M.F.A., Czapnik has been the recipient of two others: an Emerging Writers Fellowship from the Center for Fiction in 2017, and an NYSCA/NYFA Artist Fellowship in Fiction from The New York Foundation for the Arts in 2018.

Czapnik lives with her husband and son in New York. (Adapted from online sources.)

Book Reviews
[An] electric debut.… Lucy's fierce first-person point of view is as confident and fearless as she is on the court; she narrates her story with the immediacy and sharpness of a sports commentator, mixed with the pathos and wisdom of a perceptive adolescent charting the perils of her senior year of high school.… But it's arguably the nonhuman characters that give true shape to Lucy's evolution: basketball and New York…Her self-descriptions on the court are as visceral and vivid as any sex scene.… Czapnik, who herself grew up in Manhattan around the same time as Lucy, captures nostalgia—for both a vanishing New York and Lucy's evaporating childhood—with the lucidity of a V.R. headset.… Reader, beware: Spending time with Lucy is unapologetic fun, and heartbreak, and awe as well.
Chloe Malle - New York Times Book Review

The book is filled with highly caffeinated badass riffs on Manhattan's scenery and soul, on feminism and art, on Lucy's generation, and on basketball itself.… Lucy's simmering sexuality, her reaction to the male bodies around her, is never off the page for long. After all the books we've read about horny, frustrated adolescent boys, it's nice to get a different perspective.… Lucy may come from 1993, but her voice and her energy are just what we need right now.

Here's a sentence of critical praise I never expected to utter: The descriptions of basketball games in this novel are riveting.… Lucy's sweaty, all-in passion for basketball, which Czapnik captures so vividly in The Falconer, gives me a sharp sense of what I missed out on.… In The Falconer, Dana Czapnik displays this same gift: In bringing Lucy to life, she sees the whole game.
Maureen Corrigan - NPR

[E]lectrifying.… [A] frank, bittersweet coming-of-age story that crackles with raw adolescent energy, fresh-cut prose, and a kinetic sense of place.… And Czapnik, a seasoned sportswriter, has written exactly the book that every smart, strange, wonderful teenage weirdo like Lucy deserves.
Entertainment Weekly

[F]lawed first novel…. Despite a lived-in sense of place, this coming-of-age novel seems to be about jaded young characters who have already come of age, leaving them—and the reader—with little room for emotional development.
Publishers Weekly

You can try, but you’re unlikely to find descriptions of basketball as elegant as those in Dana Czapnik’s debut novel.… The Falconer offers astute observations on the difficulties women confront when trying to succeed in male-dominated fields. In Lucy, Czapnik has created a great character who refuses to conform to expectations.

(Starred review) A 17-year-old basketball player faces the complications of growing up smart, talented, and female in New York City circa 1993..… Coming-of-age in Manhattan may not have been done this brilliantly since Catcher in the Rye. That comparison has been made before, but this time, it's true. Get ready to fall in love.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
1. In the first few pages, we are introduced to the protagonist as she plays basketball. Describe how the author uses this physical scene to bring us into Lucy’s inner world. What does the description illuminate about the experience of playing sports as a woman? What does basketball mean to Lucy in particular?

2. The third chapter begins with snapshots of the Lower East Side of the 1990s as Lucy perceives it. Does her description of the city remind you of the New York you know today? Why or why not? And how does this break in the narrative serve the larger story?

3. In that same chapter, Lucy tells Violet the story of how she got the white scar on her lip, a self-inflicted attempt to imitate the pretty scar that her classmate Lauren Moon got from a split lip. What does this revelation say about Lucy’s self-perception versus how she believes her peers see her? What do you make of Violet’s comment that even self-inflicted scars are earned?

4. Privilege plays an important role in the story and means something different for each character. Discuss what it means for Lucy, Percy, Alexis, and Violet; how it influences their choices and ways of being; and how being the children of Baby Boomers figures into all of this.

5. Why does Lucy admire the Falconer statue? What is its significance?

6. After her makeover at Percy’s house, Lucy asks Brent’s girlfriend, Kim: "Do you ever think makeup is a signifier of our inferiority?" (p. 99). Examine their conversation. With whom do you agree, and why?

7. After being hit in the face at a basketball game, Lucy takes a moment to herself in the bathroom before leaving the gym (pp. 126–28). Why does she decide to leave?

8. Lucy and Percy’s dynamic changes over the course of one transformative night (pp. 140–51). Describe how the author presents the scene to us. What’s running through Lucy’s mind in this moment? How does Lucy’s perception of love and of Percy change?

9. Lucy spends New Year’s Eve with Alexis at a diner where they share their favorite moments of the past year. Alexis observes that "we’re both chasing a feeling of weightlessness" (p. 173). What do you think she means? What else does Lucy learn about her friend that night?

10. Examine Lucy and her mother’s frank conversation about motherhood (pp. 201–6). How does it pertain to today’s discussions about feminism, and how do generational differences play into their exchange?

11. Compare Lucy and Percy’s relationship at the beginning of the book to their relationship as it stands at the end. What has been lost, and what gained?

12. Trace Lucy’s character development throughout the book. What does she learn about herself and what she wants? How do you feel about the ending? What do you think Lucy’s future will be like?
(Questions issued by the publisher.)

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