No two persons ever read the same book. --Edmund Wilson

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

#61: My Little Blue Dress -- Bruno Maddox

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

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