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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; 1st Edition edition (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: #2,195,403 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.

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