Friday, 15 March 2013

[Duel Review] Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles - Ron Currie Jr.

In this tour de force of imagination, Ron Currie asks why literal veracity means more to us than deeper truths, creating yet again a genre-bending novel that will at once dazzle, move, and provoke.

The protagonist of Ron Currie, Jr.’s new novel has a problem­—or rather, several of them. He’s a writer whose latest book was destroyed in a fire. He’s mourning the death of his father, and has been in love with the same woman since grade school, a woman whose beauty and allure is matched only by her talent for eluding him. Worst of all, he’s not even his own man, but rather an amalgam of fact and fiction from Ron Currie’s own life. When Currie the character exiles himself to a small Caribbean island to write a new book about the woman he loves, he eventually decides to fake his death, which turns out to be the best career move he’s ever made. But fame and fortune come with a price, and Currie learns that in a time of twenty-four-hour news cycles, reality TV, and celebrity Twitter feeds, the one thing the world will not forgive is having been told a deeply satisfying lie.

What kind of distinction could, or should, be drawn between Currie the author and Currie the character?  Or between the book you hold in your hands and the novel embedded in it? Whatever the answers, Currie, an inventive writer always eager to test the boundaries of storytelling in provocative ways, has essential things to impart along the way about heartbreak, reality, grief, deceit, human frailty, and blinding love.

Colin picked this month's book but it was totally fine with me. He'd gotten me to read another book by Currie called Everything Matters! about a year earlier and I had loved it so it was no trouble to get me to agree to read another book by Currie.

One of the things you first notice about Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles is that it's written in a very unique style. Each page is a complete thought or anecdote. Sometimes that's one paragraph. Sometimes that's three pages. Because of this way of writing, it's both easy to start reading and a quicker read than normal. At first I worried that this style would make it hard for me to connect to the story, since there was less story and less narrative connection than you would normally have. Now that I've finished, though, I can't really imagine the story told through a more regular means. It works in snatches and adds some depth that you wouldn't be able to get with a linear narrative.

That's another thing: this story is completely nonlinear. Not that you can't figure out a timeline as you're reading but it does get a bit confusing in the beginning. Currie skips around from his life with Emma, his life on a tropical island, the last few months with his dad and his slightly-obsessive thoughts on what he calls 'The Singularity.' All the stories are compelling and his observations in some areas inform different thoughts. I really enjoyed this aspect.

About two thirds of the way into the book, the novel takes a turn towards where it was headed all the time. This is the only thing that I didn't really like. The last forty or so pages, in my opinion, are the best and the most interesting. I really wish that there were more to this. His time back in the states and dealing with what had happened while he was gone was my favorite part and I feel like he didn't give enough time to this. I see why it's short, since the audience within the narrative would arguably already know all this but I do wish I could have seen more.

I'm still not sure how I feel about Emma. I always have a bit of an issue with books about men with obsessive love. I just feel uncomfortable for the woman involved, normally and this wasn't any different. I think the book manages to be more than this but there was still a tad of that creepy obsessive love that never sits right with me. I think it was handled well in the end but for the first two thirds of the book? Tad creepy, Currie.

Overall, though, the book was really good. I think I still prefer Everything Matters! on storyline alone but this was no bad book by a long shot. I look forward to reading more by Currie in the future.

This is a duel book review with Colin. I will post a link to Colin's post as soon as he puts it up. :)

1 comment:

  1. Nice review. I had a hard time connecting with Emma, too. I liked Charlotte better and hated to see her go. The faked death and posthumous fame thing kind of took me out of the story, which to that point was interesting blend of philosophy on love, death, and the 'singularity.' The physical presentation, though, was intriguing, as you point out, and kept me turning pages.