Mira Corpora by Jeff Jackson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is what Scott Bradfield tried, and failed to do with his novel A History of Luminous Motion. But, whereas Bradfield's exquisite prose and young narrator were a conflicting mismatch of form and figure, Jackson hits the right tone at the right time for the narrator as he grows from age six to eighteen and beyond.
The book starts with short, terse paragraphs, memories-as-vignettes with the staccato lurching of fragmented memories, in a similar style as Ben Marcus' early works. As the narrator ages, the writings and the situations become more complex (though never too complex) until we reach the drug-addled chapter "My Life in Exile", in which all direction is lost and the narrator's voice becomes as confused as the circumstances being reflected upon, though they are never so blinding that one completely loses the thread. That's not to say that the reader doesn't occasionally "wake up" alongside the narrator in the same state of confusion and blackout-memory-loss about what preceded the present and where exactly one was or is at that moment. At times, the thread is so bare that the narrator and, hence, the reader, questions if he is the same person as the one who related/read the previous chapter. There's no doubt that the narrator has lost his mind, but the question is: "How much was lost"?
The author's caveat at the beginning of the book: "Sometimes it's been difficult to tell my memories from my fantasies" does not help to clarify matters. And, perhaps that's what gives the book some of its power: Though a work of fiction, there is enough verisimilitude to believe that perhaps some of the work is not fiction, but autobiography. Then again, is autobiography ever anything other than fiction, really?
One thing that is clear is Jackson's ability to invoke heartbreak and emotional confusion. Though the book has some surreal situations - a colony of runaways living in the woods, an amusement park inhabited by feral monkeys, an enslavement to drugs and the very real enslavement to another human being - the mental dissonance caused in the mind by these dark, strange scenes never seems to overpower the angst of broken-heartedness that the narrator himself suffers from, but of which he seems nearly unaware. This is a descent into emotional numbness, and it hurts going down. Here, the hero doesn't write the quest, the anti-quest writes the anti-hero.
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