Amnesia

Douglas Cooper, Author Hyperion Books $19.45 (227p) ISBN 978-1-56282-748-9
The nameless narrator of this semi-surreal, hypnotic debut is an archival librarian who misses his own wedding while listening to the unbidden confession of a complete stranger, Izzy Darlow. At age 13, Izzy commits a robbery one day before his bar mitzvah, and to atone, he volunteers to work at a mental hospital. Three years later he meets Katie, a sometimes mute patient traumatized by sexual abuse which she relives in nightmarish memories. Izzy's story weaves Katie's past into the history of his own family's disintegration, which was abetted by his brother Aaron, an eccentric engineer who builds a computer that mimics negative emotions. The two lives intersect when Izzy falls for Katie; they make love on the washroom floor but after electric shock treatments destroy her memory, Izzy kills his need for her. Unhinged by Izzy's story, the narrator, himself the victim of some unidentified childhood trauma, wanders through a dreamlike mindscape of other people's memories (he is an archival librarian); Izzy's voice alternates with that of the ancient Greek poet Simonides, ``the Father of Memory,'' until the narrator's mind is overwhelmed. Published to extravagant praise in Canada (with comparisons to Nabokov, Genet, Calvino and Margaret Atwood), this fragmentary novel impresses with propulsive sentences that smolder and ignite, hallucinatory images and a lyrical exploration of the destructive effects of buried memories and family secrets. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 02/28/1994
Release date: 03/01/1994
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