Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Accidental and Untrue

If a mockumentary is a fake documentary, then is a mockuoir a deliberately fake memoir?  Let's agree that it is.  In that case, Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles is a mockuoir by Ron Currie, Jr.  What makes this a mockuoir instead of just a plain novel is that Currie names the main character after himself, Ron Currie, Jr., and portions of the story also happened in his life.  What makes it different from a memoir, especially in this era where we know that memoirs are frequently fully of falsehoods, is that the main character insists that every word is true, even though we know very well that it is not.  Currie isn't the first author to name characters after himself.  Jonathan Safran Foer named the main character after himself in Everything is Illuminated, and Orhan Pamuk has included characters with his own name in a few of his books, as examples.  But neither of those authors have insisted that their stories are true, when they are obviously fictional.  Thus, the mockuoir.

FLPM shifts between three main story lines.  The first of these is the story of the main character's father's death, which I believe is also the story of the author's father's death.  The second story line is about the main character's obsession with an unobtainable woman named Emma.  Portions of this story are also likely the true story of the author's lost love.  The third is not a story so much as the main character's (and probably, the author's) thoughts and concerns about the future of artificial intelligence, and whether it will mean the end to all mankind.

In FLPM, Ron moves to a Caribean island at the request of the girl who he hopes will be his girlfriend.  She stays behind in the mainland US, to remake her life after her divorce.  While Ron is living on the island, he finds fist fights and a substitute girlfriend.  One thing leads to another, and Ron accidentally fakes his own suicide.  Throughout all this, we are flashing back to Ron's father's last days, and various stages of his relationship with Emma.

Some of the reviews that I read about this book complained that it was not linear, and was hard to follow.  I would say that it is no less linear than Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn.  One thing that differentiated this book from any other that I have read is that there are page breaks at the end of each train of thought.  So, while this is a 340 page book, if it had "normal" page breaks, it would have probably only been about 250 pages.  These random page breaks gave the reader an easy out, where a person could quit reading at any point, rather than feeling like they should get to the end of the chapter.  Obviously, this was deliberate, and consistent with Ron's (the character's and the author's) feigned indifference as to whether anyone finishes the book.

The artificial intelligence storyline hinted at the Sonmi story in Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell, with ruminations on whether souls can be grown in mechanical creations.  In a more timely observation, Currie mentions Oscar Pistorius, the Olympic runner with two prosthetic legs, as an example of how "non organic enhancements" will change the future of sports.  I would think that now, with Pistorius in the news for killing his girlfriend, Currie would like to re-write this section, somehow making Pistorius into an example of artificial intelligence working against humans, even when the soul was (or should have been) naturally developed.

I read FLPM at the request of Shannon Twomey of Viking, Penguin Books.  She sent me a free copy of the book and asked me to review it.  No promises were made, no payments were received.  Next month I will be reviewing The Mystery of Mercy Close by Marian Keyes as my "industry requested review".

Next Up:  The Descendants by Kaui Hart Hemmings. 

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