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Thursday, February 7, 2013

Flimsy Little Plastic Miracle: Sad, But True, Love Story

Ron Currie, Jr. has written far and away the best book of all time...whose title is a reference to nicotine patches. Okay, but seriously, Currie's new novel, Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles, is superb — easily my favorite of the year so far! It's deserving of the highest compliment I know how to pay a book: Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles is exactly the kind of book I wish I could write.

The fun starts even before the beginning — on the epigraph page, where Currie decries the idiotic idea of epigraphs, because too often, they "provide the the author an opportunity to be pompous. To indulge in a little high-lit posturing" — but then he includes one anyway. Even before, on the title page, Currie has included the notation "A True Story," and then given us a paragraph about how everything that follows is "based on real events," and what exactly that means. So we know this is going to be a bit unconventional. Indeed, did everything that we're about to read really happen?

Of course not — but having that question about what is true in a novel in the back of your mind as you read, is part of the point for this book — and becomes very important at the end.

So the story is this: A novelist named Ron Currie, Jr. (ever read Operation Shylock by Philip Roth?), is telling us his tale (in the first person), as if it were a memoir. But despite the fact the tells us it's true — can we believe him? Do we believe him more when he says things like:"Like everybody else, I had trembled my whole life for something true"? Or might we think he doth protest too much?

Currie reunites with his high school sweetheart, Emma, a beautiful, troubled woman, who is just emerging from a failed marriage. But then, after a few months of reunited bliss, Emma again sends Currie away — and Currie reacts by totally removing himself (because he can't trust himself to be near her, but not with her) to an unnamed, tiny Caribbean island. There, he drinks, fights with locals, and continues work on a novel about Emma.

All the while, we get Currie's (the novelist? the fictional character?) ruminations about the future event known as the Singularity, when machines will become self-aware, and then humans will cease to exist, or humans will be gods, or the Singularity is really heaven, or any of a number of other of equally good or bad things might happen. Normally, these interruptions in fiction are annoying. These are not annoying — they're fascinating. They add texture to the story — to Currie's (presumably, the fictional character) increasingly frazzled mind and increasing vulnerability. Additionally, Currie tells us about taking care of his father as he slowly died of cancer — which is sad as hell, and again, adds context to Currie's own sad situation. This is not a happy book, to be clear.

Along the way, there is a buxom college girl, a suicide attempt, a best-selling novel, and ruminations on what truly is true. And it's just simply amazing. I really loved it! And I think you will too.

7 comments:

  1. Thanks for this! I loved Everything Matters! so am looking forward to hearing Ron Currie, Jr., read from the new book at my local bookstore on Monday.

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    1. I loved Everything Matters!, too. But this is better, I think. Enjoy the reading - I'm sure it'll be entertaining.

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  2. The best book of all time? High praise indeed!
    That's one of the things I love about books "based on" true stories. What's true, what's not true, what's embellishment? It adds a whole different layer to the reading experience. I'll be checking this out.

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    1. Ha - well, you had to keep reading. It's the best book of all time whose title is a reference to nicotine patches - not THE best book of all time.

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  3. This sounds like a bizarre (in a good way) read! I'll have to watch out for this one. Thanks Greg!

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  4. Thanks for the heads up on this. I haven't read this author before so I must get on it.

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  5. This book was recommended to me by a friend who knows that I love Vonnegut. Apparently this guy's writing style is very similar. I have not yet started reading the book, but by everyone's recommendations, I'm sure it will be great.
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