The back-cover description pasted here on Goodreads was clearly written by the author himself and is, unfortuMeh.
Actually, that might be a bit strong.
The back-cover description pasted here on Goodreads was clearly written by the author himself and is, unfortunately, the most interesting bit of prose contained in the book. Seems fairly common amongst books of this chic new genre called "critifiction," which translates into English, roughly, as "masturbatory tripe." Read some Benjamin, and pronounce it BEYN-yah-meen, and then tell me how avant garde and under-appreciated you are, you hipster fucks.
The "plot" (and I'm using the word out of kindness) is Sontag's On Photography smeared over Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Also, I have not enjoyed a second-person narrator since the Choose Your Own Adventure books in j-high. When they aren't busy being fawning and intrusive, second-person narrators smack of the Everyman. Add the observation that the "you" narrator is loosely based on Olsen himself, and I am grossly insulted by his attempts at pawning off his interior musings as my own, as though he were saying something (a) original, or (b) so astoundingly important I must share in his subject-position.
The cover blurb claims that the book's "prevailing metaphor and structural device, the photograph, examines the way images, in their magical ability to mimic memory, ultimately mock and eradicate it." Which means only that the author read Camera Lucida in grad school. "The individual past, seemingly stable and fixed, turns out to be as protean and unknowable as the future." Noooo, you're shitting me. You mean, like, Schopenhauer circa eighteen fifty fucking one? Can you even say "turns out to be" after a century and a half? Turns out there is a literary trope in which love is fully consummated only in death. Turns out we'll call it Love-Death, or liebestod. Turns out "Hills Like White Elephants" is about an abortion. An abortion, people! Gawd! "The body becomes strangely dispensable, perpetually adrift in a cybernetic world of hyperlinks and interfaces." This last bit is utter trendy bullshit, not addressed at all in the novel but damn, doesn't it sound cool? Interfaces...mmmmm. The closest we come is the "you" narrator's fleeting fascination with a performance artist who looks strangely like Orlan, as if the aura of her brilliance might rub off onto this red-shirted bitch of an author.
Basically, this waste of 328 pages is a stoner's super-deep epiphanies after regurgitating a surface-level recap of actually intelligent people who have come before. There is no story-telling involved in this book. There is only a bibliography strung out and uncited for twelve chapters....more
Like a lot of Perec's work, I got three-quarters of the way through, set the book down somewhere and just got busy with reruns of Charles in Charge anLike a lot of Perec's work, I got three-quarters of the way through, set the book down somewhere and just got busy with reruns of Charles in Charge and shopping for the right toothbrush. He teases a stunning amount of compelling character development and narrative flow from a book of room descriptions, and the concept is brilliant. There really isn't anything I don't like about Life. I just felt like the book had given everything it had to give and wasn't drawn back to finish it.
Reading this book requires staying power. If you need the narrative arc to turn the pages for you, you're screwed on this one....more