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Monday, May 16, 2011

How The Dead Dream

I found this book among the abandoned shelves one day when I was trying to cool off at my job at the bookstore. The cover was gone, so I gathered that it had been remaindered. That is probably not the way to find new fiction to read, but I started reading, and the light control of the prose stayed with me long after my stint at the bookstore was done. I finally purchased it on Kindle as a reward to myself. I had found out in the meantime that this novel is about a man who stealthily invades zoos at night in order to get close to endangered animals. There is indeed a very touching passage with a Sumatran rhinoceros!

But the book actually takes the reader through the main character, T.'s, entire life. His love of money and lack of friends. The abandonment by his father. The bliss of finding a true love match and the despair at her sudden and meaningless loss. The consolation of a friendship that looks as if it's turning into romance before it's suddenly yanked out from under him as well. His mother's loss of sanity, memory, and self. The true communion he finds with a dog who suffers a bizarre and cruel injury, but perseveres. The unfailing desire to start again from the ashes on a desert island, which Nature itself takes away from him.

I told my husband about each misfortune as it came, and he wondered if T. was going to commit suicide. While the plot is a relentless slog through a bitter, bitter end, T. never feels that desperate. He makes an assumption that life goes on, no matter what is thrown at him. In the end, I came away with the impression that this metaphor-filled book illustrates the inexorable decline of all species, and especially of the human race, which, even as we reach seven billion this year, feels ever more isolated and alone. A devastating statement by a talented author.