The novel starts off in the early years of the 20th century, with the narrator -- then a small girl -- finding herself oddly at odds with her family and friends. Her grandfather (before conveniently dying) tells her she's allergic to the Past. Even as a little girl, the narrator sees the flaw in this argument ('but it's the Present!') ... so far, so good, in a sort of sub-Fforde way. Reader, I did not like the narrator at this point.
Rather later -- somewhere around the Twenties (the book is arranged, in earlier parts at least, by decade) -- it becomes obvious that the book we're reading is not the memoir of a woman as old as the century. There are notes-to-self from the 'author', in a different voice (and a different font), which indicate that something rather more macabre is going on.
And gradually we catch glimpses of the Author, a young man who's caring for an old lady in a New York tenement. And we catch glimpses of the rest of his life, too, as imagined by the old lady. Or are they?
And then there's another shift; and another. And by the end of the book there's a great deal of doubt as to what's real, who's real, and who's who.
I really, really disliked the middle part of this book: only stubbornness kept me going. I should have been relieved when things changed, but instead I felt cheated.
It is cleverly done -- and there's some interesting takes on remix culture, blending past and present, the endless quest for novelty -- though there's some clunky writing in there too. But I didn't like any of the narrative voices, and I didn't think it went anywhere. Does that make it Art, then?
reposted here from LJ in order to keep all my reviews in one place