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Amnesia [Paperback]

Douglas Cooper


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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.

From Kirkus Reviews

Nobody will ever accuse Canadian writer Cooper of timidity. A Frankenstein machine, psychic possession, the Holocaust, and mental illness are just some of the elements in his first novel--all about guilt, memory, and the male as sexual predator. The place: Toronto, a city governed by ``propriety,'' where wildness has been confined to the ravines. The main players: Katie and Izzy. Katie is a virgin, sweet, trusting; her expensive home juts out above a ravine. Izzy Darlow is the middle of three brothers. Older brother Aaron takes after their father, a successful developer downplaying his Jewish heritage. Aaron dreams the future; he is building a resurrection machine. Younger brother Josh, a free spirit, celebrates the past. Izzy is the reader. When he learns about the Holocaust at age 12, he tries to destroy Aaron's machine; this is the novel's center. In the ensuing chaos, Izzy is possessed; Katie is violated and rendered mute; Izzy turns delinquent and causes the deaths of Josh and their grandfather. Three years later Izzy meets Katie in a mental hospital; the two amnesiacs move from trust to urgent coupling and then to betrayal when Izzy leaves her. It sounds preposterous, summarized, but plot is only one consideration in a novel that is structurally complex (there's a narrator who has his own problems with women and memory), thematically wide-ranging (Freud, architecture, the corruption of the academy), more concerned with emotional states than traditional characters, and more reminiscent of, say, Thomas's White Hotel than Hart's Damage. Cooper's supple intelligence and crisp prose sustain the novel and succeed in distracting us from its hokey heart until, in its final section, it becomes a listless raking of the embers. A beguiling if ultimately disappointing debut from a strong new talent. -- Copyright ©1993, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Douglas Cooper was born in Toronto in 1960. After taking an MA in philosophy, he led safaris in Kenya, wrote feature screenplays for Talisman Films in London, and settled for a time in Paris, where he completed this novel.
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