Still lingering over the end of Scarlett Thomas's The End of Mr. Y: equal parts Jeff Noon and Jacques Derrida, Neil Gaiman and Martin Heidegger, with a large dose of Gwendoline Riley, and yet somehow a bit Sophie's World. Have I thrown enough comparisons at you? I'm at a loss to describe it with anything but a slew of comparisons, because this book isn't sitting comfortably in its own category yet. Which is meant as a compliment, especially as these are authors I enjoy reading more than I would like to admit. (Apart from the Sophie's World. That one, not so much.)
I should reveal before I go on that I was initially disappointed by the book, as much as I enjoyed reading it. But then I don't think I've let it sit long enough. And books that I really dislike don't usually leave me disappointed - they leave me ambivalent. Nor do they usually tempt me to read them while walking down the street, nearly bumping into lampposts.
So surely I must have loved this one?
There are reasons not to. The ending felt rushed - too much "and then we were here" or "and then that was done and we were on to the next thing" - but perhaps that was my own perception of it. Or maybe that was the point, to make time feel less concrete and fluid to drive the story home. But then the characters she wanted us to feel connected to - in the minds of, even - felt a bit two-dimensional. Interesting, given the possibility of four. And glimpses of a new story were offered (Lura's unwillingness to look anyone in the eye who asked about her experiences in the Troposphere) that never felt resolved. It feels a bit as if I've had the book knocked from my hands before I had a chance to read the last chapter. And I really, really wanted to read that last chapter.
Because the book affected me. As I walked to the subway yesterday, images of the Troposphere ran through my mind, and I began to wonder what emotion the Q train represented. And it continued: Each old book I picked up at the bookstore was loaded with new meaning. If I solve the puzzle in that 1925 copy of The Puzzle Lock by R. Austin Freeman, will a porthole open to a new dimension? If I play the faery song at the end of Eugene Field's 1893 collection A Little Book of Profitable Tales on a rusted flute at dusk, would I fall into a faery world? Thomas's melding of roll-ups, rope burns, iPods, time loops, and fourth dimensions made it seem possible, just for a moment. This is a talent, one that lingered with me long after the last line of text was gone from the page. (And, ultimately, the reason I bought both books in the end - Thomas would make a great used book salesclerk.)