After having just finished this book, I have now read three reviews. All three alluded to the fact that there are hints and indications that the second part of the book, Amar’s story, has really been written by Alice. That would, of course, tie both or all three sections together. I missed that allusion. I went back and looked for it. Still nothing. What have I overlooked? In the absence of that connection, of course, the book makes much less sense and lacks the coherence that I’d appreciate. Clearly, I’m outed as an unsophisticated reader. But I’d like to know what I missed. Any help, literary Dopers? **
(For those like me who have never heard of it, here is a review.)
May want to get a Mod to fix the title for you.
Ok. One S, two M’s. * Asymmetry.* But what’s the answer to the question?
The answer seems to be that the novel is less of a literary phenomenon than the review claims. (It looks like we are mostly on the “never heard of it” bandwagon. Somebody would help you if they could.)
Could it be something to do with explaining Alice’s state of mind, i.e., something that only Alice could possibly know? Or a part that explains away some negative behavior of Alice? Does Alice feature in any part of Amar’s story?
Not that I can see. Here’s an example from one review of the novel that causes me to ask the question (aside from my own lack of clarity on the structure): “The coda, which confirms with the lightest of touches that Amar sprang from Alice’s head…”
I don’t detect those “light touches,” and other reviews have made similar statements. Frankly, I’m thinking that** Darren Garrison** is right, that the “greatness” of this novel is more apparent than real, that it has struck the lit-crit crowd as the latest, greatest American novel, and that this particular emperor has little or no clothing. I’d surely be willing to see it otherwise, but it’s apparently beyond my mere powers to appreciate or understand. Incidentally, several critics have mentioned that the main character, the writer, seems to be modelled after Philip Roth, and that might have many of the reviewers in thrall. Whatever, I don’t get it. Any help, Dopers?
I just read the novel and found it frustrating, as the attempt to tie everything together fell flat IMO. Amar’s story is the best part, and I rather wish Halliday had just written that book. The first section was mildly interesting in a roman a clef sense (though Ezra Blazer is certainly a nicer man than Philip Roth ever was, if Claire Bloom’s account is to be trusted, or perhaps he had mellowed by the time Halliday knew him). The writing in Part I is very good, but the characters as fictional characters don’t have much substance. The Alice in Wonderland trope is tired and trite.
The passage that points most directly to Alice as the writer of Amar’s story is this one, from the third section: “A young friend of mine has written a rather surprising little novel about this, in its way. . . . It’s a novel that on the surface would seem to have nothing to do with its author, but in fact is a kind of veiled portrait of someone determined to transcend her provenance, her privilege, her naivete. . . . Incidentally, this friend, she was one of the – Well, no, I won’t say that. I won’t say her name.” This passage also suggests that Alice was one of the women Ezra “hugely loved” whose leaving plunged him into depression.
All in all, I think it’s an ambitious novel that doesn’t quite pull off what it’s trying to do. The metafictional book-within-a-book thing usually fails. Nabokov could do it, but most writers aren’t Nabokov.
Ah, ok. Thanks.