Monday, June 23, 2008

But I remember everything

Sam Taylor's the Amnesiac tells the story of Jim Purdew and his realization that he cannot remember anything from his college years. His growing fixation on this fact slowly kills his relationship and sends him back to his old college town to try and uncover what he forgot. Along the way Purdew mediates on the nature of memory and identity in a way I found quite engaging.
The novel eventually enters a murky dreamstate, where the lines between reality and imagination are unclear. The story often teeters on the edge of nightmare. Not the nightmare of fright, but of an strangeness, the sense that thinks are just slightly off kilter.This can become rapidly silly, but I think Taylor does a great job with Purdew's wrestling with his memory. I especially liked his use of peculiar manuscripts that Purdew finds and writes himself.

The book lays it on a tad thick with its Phillip Larkin and Jorge Luis Borges references. Labyrinths are everywhere and a character appears who claims to have inherited Larkin's memory! I am poorly read in both artists, so I don't know how someone better read would react, but it might grate.

Taylor well balances his tasks of keeping the story moving and exploring his themes. Purdew, and other characters, are fascinated by detectives and detective fiction. Purdew even calls himself a private investigator at one point. Purdew, towards the end, wonders if the best mystery would merely give clues to the story and end on an quite ambiguous note. This is quite the tease by Taylor, who manages to add some additional tension to the end with this move.

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