The Strangers

Eugene Lim. Black Square Editions (SPD, dist.), $15 trade paper (216p) ISBN 978-0-9860050-2-2
In his second novel, Lim (Fog & Car) weaves a fantastical tapestry of the bizarre lives of various sets of twins slipping seamlessly into and out of one another's awareness. Experimental film screenings populate both Noona and Oona's separate lives. Noon enacts vandalism upon the propaganda posters of an oppressive nation-state; meanwhile Oon watches a bad date undo his favorite painting. As themes and settings reappear, reimagined and repurposed, characters become actors in various states of self-awareness. Some merely fake it at dead-end jobs while others enact scripted roles, like the cheating actress or the celebrity prisoner who refuses the regime. Some stories emerge within other stories, whispered in a lover's ear beneath the rush of street noise, a letter to a brother, or a disembodied narration over a submarine's speaker-system. These layered narratives take on a critical mass with each iteration and repetition, as the novel examines the very act of storytelling. Readers looking for logic will be frustrated by the lack of overt pattern or rhythm, but in gorgeous language alternately athletic or sprawling, Lim's whip-smart novel offers revisionist histories that keep readers hungry for the heart of a narrative, for echoes that hold truths. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 11/04/2013
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