Sunday, June 7, 2015
Life and Amnesia
I'd like to attempt to post something meaningful about Peter Carey's Amnesia which I finished reading last night but I'm feeling distracted and exhausted by domestic events. We're having the living room floor refinished tomorrow which means we've spent those chunks of time not dedicated to Gradka the last few days to shifting everything out of the living room. Armchairs, a couch, three bookcases, a case containing 500 or more CDs, Aunt Birdie's desk, and god knows what all else are now in the basement, in the attic, in the garage, in the bedroom, in the blue room, and in the kitchen. The housiverary event has shifted, mercifully, from redoing the front hillside to installing quarter-round in the living room after the floor is done. Some painting could also be involved. That's all a week in the future.
None of which has a damned thing to do wtih Amnesia. The story is told, sort of, by "Australia's last left-wing journalist" which you know he is because he's referred to that way more than once. It's implied that that's sort of ironical, that he has sold out as much anyone else, but you never get all the details so it's not entirely clear, at least not to a reader who has had a stressful time at work of late, a sick cat, a not-entirely-healthy Lebensgefährte, impending house projects, and--goddammit--raspberries she forgot she was going to start watering, exactly what the journalist's crimes of omission or commission may have been. He's no saint, the journalist who is somehow hired by an old friend who turns out not to be so friendly afterall to write the biography of a waif-like cyberterrorist who really isn't so waif-like and who may or may not be a cyberterrorist. What I'm saying is that there's a lot of not obfuscation but just somehow hedging in this latest Peter Carey. Is that the point? I don't know. Peter Carey is one of my favorite novelists of the 20th/21st century but this particular book feels a bit like a draft. Like "I have an idea for a really relevant and thought-provoking book but I just can't quite work out how to tell it. Here are my notes. If I make my notes the book that is written under trying circumstances by my flawed hero journalist, does that work? It does? Hand over that advance check."
But I do admire Peter Carey and I don't like to think that his best work is behind him. I admit that I haven't read this latest book in the way that a Peter Carey novel deserves to be read. And I hated the cover of the US hardback so much that at first I didn't buy the book and then, once I did break down and get it on Independent Bookstore Day, I turned the dj inside out (and then managed to stain the white cover with a bit of blueberry. It's still a better cover than the ugly US edition cover). But still. One thing about Mr Carey's earlier novels is that they were long. Amnesia is sort of current-novel-length. About twenty pages from the end I became aware that he was a long way from the end of his story, but, at that point, somehow the journalist is forced to wrap up his account so Mr Carey wraps up his account and I was suddenly reading about the font that was used in this book: Requiem, created in the 1990s by the Hoefler Type Foundry. That I've been moved to fetch the book from the blue room in order to check the note concerning the type, rather than to grab a quote from the book, sort of says it all.
Gradka is becoming perkier and perkier which is good, in that I don't like it when Gradka doesn't seem like Gradka, but less than great when I see her trying to scratch and lick herself unsuccessfully because that damned cone is in the way and when she insists that she wants to go outside when I know she's trapped indoors, in that idiotic cone, for another thirteen days. I wish we could both just sleep for the next two weeks. And I hope Mr Carey's best work is still in front of him.