Monday, August 5, 2013

The RavineThe Ravine by Paul Quarrington
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This novel kept me at a distance most of the time. Partly, this was due to the nature of the protagonist, a guy who is essentially in denial (or as he puts it The Twilight Zone) about a traumatic incident that has supposedly altered the path of his life culminating in screwing up every decent and worthwhile relationship he's ever had (wife, brother, friend). Phil is a hard guy to like and the only thing that keeps his voice from sounding self-pitying is its comic edginess, which kept me engaged. The other aspect of the narrative that distances the reader is the novel within a novel gimic. Phil is a bullshit-artist of the highest order, believing his own lies (part of living in denial), and partly why he ends up writing for teevee, the flakiest and most commercial medium of all. So now he has taken to writing the novel - for reasons he can not quite understand himself - that the characters of the novel are reading and reacting to. This is either Phil's therapeutic act of re-constituting memory and coming to terms, or just another attempt at rationalization and denial, we're never quite sure which. The novel playfully ties together a variety of narrative motifs and allusions, factoring in a Twilight Zone Episode, with a play that Phil has written for his ex-wife Veronica, and an episode of the TV show he writes, as well as the fateful childhood event he is trying (or not) to remember. Finally, it's enjoyable to watch Quarrington/Phil, the author qua author, pull the ends together into a tight but forgiving slipknot.

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