- Paperback: 224 pages
- Publisher: Random House Canada; 1st Edition edition (May 27 1992)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0394222326
- ISBN-13: 978-0394222325
- Product Dimensions: 13.7 x 2 x 21.3 cm
- Shipping Weight: 340 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #3,554,528 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
Amnesia Paperback – May 27 1992
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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.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
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.
Now with that said, for the rest of us, I'm not even sure where to begin. The book itself sort of warns of that straight off, we'll forget. The book is about Izzy. Or a man with no memories struggling to figure out who he is before he gets married. Or a dysfunctional family. Or young girls who ended up going through way more than just typical heartbreak of youth. Or... well I forget.
While most try to compare books, even loosely, to others to give you an idea of what you'll get from lesser known books I'm not sure I can compare this book to another or explain it fairly. The best I can say is that I felt as though I were reading a coming of age flashback story (albeit with more serious issues than the usual rah rah stereotypical who will I take to the prom stuff) if told by Tyler Durden of Fight Club (okay I worked in another novel reference after all). You won't want to pick this one to just read a little here and there and get back to it later - as I said, you'll forget, or get lost, etc. It will mess with you even as you're reading it straight through, and that's a good thing.
Think of Hotel New Hampshire on acid.