cover image The Memory Artists

The Memory Artists

Jeffrey Moore, . . St. Martin's Griffin, $13.95 (319pp) ISBN 978-0-312-34925-7

A renegade scientist's pathbreaking memory experiments form the core of Moore's dashing, postmodern debut novel. When young Noel Burun, the son of a disappointed chemist, is taken to see the renowned Montreal neurologist Emile Vorta, the boy is diagnosed with "synaesthesia," a condition in which all the senses intensely trigger one another. The malady, if one can call it that, gives Noel a super-Proustian gift of recollection. It proves a real boon when, years later, Noel must manage Stella, his beautiful widowed mother, who is suffering from Alzheimer's. As the novel unfolds, Noel, now a University of Quebec psychology grad student, joins Vorta's neuropsych lab. There, he attempts to find a wonder drug to cure his mother, enlisting the lab's assortment of unconventional charactersto help him: the cynical roué and actor Norval X. Blaquière, hell-bent on a performance-art project that involves seducing an alphabet's worth of women, A to Z (he's on S—as in "Stella"); former film star Samira Darwish, who steps into Vorta's amnesia experiments and reinvents herself as Noel's modest muse; and jokey, chemical-happy JJ Yelle, who helps Noel concoct outrageous experiments. Canadian Moore exhibits a nimble, sprightly touch, with understated emotive depths; his rendering of Stella's sadly solipsistic diary is particularly heart-wrenching. (Mar.)