Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Favorite book of the year

Last week I mentioned how much I had enjoyed reading Jeffrey Moore's Prisoner in a Red Rose Chain oh so many years ago. I had picked it up at a book outlet in Lancaster which, like so many booksellers, has gone defunct. Now here I am living in Lancaster County and getting around to reading Moore's second effort, The Memory Artists.

The Memory Artists is about multiple characters and is a book within a book. Or maybe books within a book. It's a novel about a psychologist who intends to write a book about one of his patients, a synesthete (someone who sees sounds as colors, for instance) and hypermnesiate (someone who remembers virtually everything) named Noel. The doctor's book is a combination of diaries of characters, a novel one of the characters wrote, the doctor's footnotes, and ultimately, a ghost writer who finishes the doctor's book upon his death. Confusing?

The book is largely about Noel's search to find a way to counter his mother's Alzheimer's while dealing with his own conditions. Every character has his or her own story and importance. There is the love interest, Samira, a former actress who suffers from short-term amnesia. Norval, who receives a grant for his performance art piece, The Alpha Bet, where he tries to sleep with a woman whose first name begins with each letter of the alphabet, in order, over a period of 26 weeks.

There's a lot that goes on and even with the extraordinary, abnormal stuff going on, it still comes down people and their emotions and Moore pulls that off well. His dialogues are really good. It's a really good story.

Prisoner has a lot of similarities to Memory Artists. Both are set in Montreal (one of my favorite cities). Both feature main characters who are really unusual. Both girlfriends are Arabic. Both feature familial relationships. Both are about the pain of love. Both are really good.

Moore's books are just "out there" enough that I can see some people not liking them. I find them touching and quirky. I've reread Prisoner a few times and can see myself going back and re-reading Memory Artists in a few years.

I also re-read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It's on a number of high school reading lists around here and is a quick read so I grabbed it with the thought that maybe Gaga might want to read it if the time comes in his English classes. I found myself remembering more about the old text-based computer game of the same name than I did the book itself which I thought was really weird since it's been a quarter-century since I played that (put fish in ear).

I was disappointed by it. The book isn't really a stand-alone story. You almost have to go on and read Douglas Adams' other books of the trilogy (of which there's what, four others? Yes, a five book trilogy). I don't see myself doing that. It was entertaining and a bit of a flashback to my younger days.

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