The Journalist Normal

Harry Mathews, Author
Harry Mathews, Author David R. Godine Publisher $21.95 (256p) ISBN 978-1-56792-007-9
Reviewed on: 10/31/1994
Release date: 11/01/1994
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This low-key novel is not, as one might expect, about a member of the press. Instead, its unnamed protagonist is a middle-aged manic-depressive who, encouraged by his wife and doctor, begins to keep a journal. Before long, he's off his medicine and taking the diary entirely too seriously-ignoring the needs of home and work in order to better index his entries. He also starts to notice suspicious behavior all around him: by his wife and best friend (whom he believes are having an affair), and by his mistress (whom he suspects of seducing his son). Mathews (Cigarettes) writes lucidly and with a great deal of sensitivity, but his form betrays him. The journal scheme sounds good but doesn't work well on the page, and at least half the text concerns the protagonist's diet, clothing or endless indexing efforts. Had Mathews allowed himself a more introspective narrator who could make the occasional astute perception about what it means to keep a journal, this would be a much better book. Yet it is by no means an unrewarding read, since Mathews depicts his forlorn protagonist with ironic humor. (Sept.)
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