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Amnesia [Paperback]

Douglas Cooper


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Book Description

May 27 1992
A stranger enters the city archives, corners a librarian, and begins to tell him a story. The librarian is supposed to be married in four hours' time, but the stranger compels him to listen. Many hours later he is still listening, and still unmarried.

The stranger's name is Izzy Darlow, and the story revolves around his fractured family and their obsessions. The family home is a labyrinth. His older brother, Aaron, conducts secret and increasingly perilous experiments in his attic bedroom. His younger brother, Josh, who speaks with a lisp but sings like an angel, wanders the streets at night consumed by visions of destruction. Izzy's own place in this curious family is complicated by disturbing influences: the terrifying books he reads compulsively in the school library, his charismatic but dangerous friend Campbell, the vicious force of his emerging sexuality.

Woven into Izzy's tale is the story of a young woman called Katie, who has been confined to a mental hospital as a result of a cruel violation suffered in her youth. Where do these two stories meet? What is Izzy leaving out, what has he forgotten? And why can the anxious librarian not extricate himself from the web that Izzy weaves around him? As the story swirls deeper, taking reference from architecture, literature, history and myth, the reader is drawn into Izzy's frighteningly dislocated world, where the only response to suffering and guilt is amnesia.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Random House Canada (May 27 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394222326
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394222325
  • Product Dimensions: 21.3 x 13.5 x 1.8 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 340 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,986,435 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

A dysfunctional family and a difficult adolescent in Toronto are the foundations of this compelling and intricate first novel, which combines elements of Frankenstein with the magical realism of recent South American fiction. Three characters--an archives librarian who has lost his memory; Katie, a young woman in a mental hospital; and Izzy Barlow, the main narrator--tell and retell their stories. These stories intersect, diverge, contradict, embellish, and ultimately come together to lay bare each life. The dangerously seductive comfort of forgetting and the nature of memory, guilt, and passion are explored intellectually and viscerally. Ambitious in scope and complex in its writing, this compulsively readable novel becomes bogged down toward the end, but Cooper is clearly an author to watch. For readers of literary and experimental fiction. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 11/1/93.
- Nancy Pearl, Washington Ctr. for the Book, Seattle
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  23 reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars READ THIS BOOK! July 10 2011
By marythea - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
Memory is important, and its loss creates dangerous, violent, even evil conditions. This magnificent novel explores memory and its loss in contexts spanning the extremely personal, interpersonal, familial, metropolitan, architectural, mythic, philosophic, and religious. In a feat unsurpassed in virtuosity, Douglas Anthony Cooper has written a compelling, page-turning fictional memoir/mystery in a truly poetic voice.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars As Abstract and Disturbing as a Fractured Mind July 26 2011
By Tracy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
A man with no memory. A memory with no man. And the broken girl who spans the bridge between them.

There are books that are read and enjoyed, books that thrill, that scare, that anger, that birth hope, renew faith, hint at love. Amnesia is not one of those books. In fact, Amnesia isn't quite like any other book I've read, and now that I've done so, ordering my thoughts and feelings about it seem as herculean a task as understanding all the brilliant nuances and twisting labyrinths found in its pages. But I'll try.

Highly stylized, brutally intelligent, psychotically affecting, this dark tale of a young man's twisted life and identity is gripping and morose, sickly seeping a sense of impending doom as it progresses in fits and starts, sliding forwards and backwards. It's a story boldly told, uniquely told, in a rambling narrative with a shifting focus, a narrative that slaps the reader upside the head with blurry snapshots of crystalline images. Broken family, tragedy, isolation, angst, sexual assault, theft, suicide of the mind, identity, Cooper hits hard with a panorama of confused misery and keeps it coming in this tale that - with its abstract and esoteric fugues - is both hard to follow and impossible to set down.

If I am to be honest, and though it pains me to admit, I can't say I understood all of it. In fact, parts of it left my mind feeling beaten, as if my intellect went to war and came home in a black bag. I can't even say I liked it, really. It's not the sort of book that I consider likable. It's depressing, confusing, and roughly akin to what my imagination would attribute to a bad acid trip. It's also compelling, and irresistible, and more than a little heartbreaking. Whether I liked it or not seems far too pedestrian a question for the weight of my emotional response to it.

If I understood it just a wee bit more, if it were just a small bit less...out there, more concrete, a bit more comprehensible in those sections that, for me, weren't, this would be one of the most significant books I've ever read. I still wouldn't say I liked it, but it sure as hell would've garnered five stars. Perhaps when I reread it...and I will definitely, unequivocally reread it...I'll be able to put together some of those pieces that didn't quite fit for me. I definitely think attacking it with the big picture intact would open up new layers of the telling for appreciation.

There were sections towards the middle and again towards the end that seemed - I'm sorry to say - to balloon out a bit. That seemed to take the dangerous step from abstruse to pedantic, not for the sake of the story being told, but just to be even more enigmatic. Those few passages kept me from waving my hands in the air and stomping my feet in full appreciation. Those few passages were the only ones in this tight, confusing, and deeply sorrowful masterpiece where my attention wavered and my mind shied away.

The rest...well, it's not Milrose Munce, certainly, but it's another side of the mind of an author who, I'm beginning to suspect, thinks so far outside the lines he's in a different parking lot. On a different planet. Visiting, however, always leaves a lasting...memory.

Disclosure: A copy of this book was provided to me by the author for the purpose of an honest review. My rating, review, and all thoughts and comments included are my own.

~*~*~*~
Reviewed for One Good Book Deserves Another.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Compelling Read... July 7 2011
By Dormantparadox - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
Unorthodox and fascinating. A kaleidoscope of ideas, intriguing musings, and arresting prose. A book that comes to us seemingly from another dimension, with delicious perspective and convicting principles. Worth more than one read for its complexity. This is not simply a book - it is decidedly an experience. Dark and depressing, but altogether entirely interesting.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I've read it three times. Dec 18 1997
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Amnesia is aptly named. Reading it, you feel like you yourself have forgotten something integral. It moves at a deadly, feverish pace, twisting itself out of recognition, becoming something more than a novel. Just as Torontois an organic city within the book, the book itself is organic. It grows into and out of itself. It finds its way into your life.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Intriguing Nov. 13 2012
By Teresa K. Dyer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
So good you may have to read it twice. Seriously, this is a fascinating novel and its complexity may actually require a second reading. Pay attention to the characters, time references, and plot lines as you read because it definitely requires reading comprehension but you will be pulled along in the story. Go ahead and purchase, at the price you have very little to lose
ARRAY(0xad8f65d0)

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