Thursday, March 01, 2007

The End of Mr. Y

I'm sitting here looking at a copy f Deborah Eisenberg's Twilight of the Superheroes, and wondering if I should start it. The reason for my hesitation, is the mental fatigue from finishing the last book that I read. The book in question is The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas.

The End of Mr. Y is about a book, a curse, and a woman. There is also a smattering of mice. We will get to the mice later.

Ariel Manto is a PhD student who has developed an fascination for a book. A book written by an obscure 19th century author, a book which is rumored to be cursed. Then one day Ariel goes into a second-hand bookshop and finds the book.

Disregarding the curse, Ariel begins to read The End of Mr. Y which inevitably leads her down a drug-induced rabbit-hole into a world called the Troposphere. In the Troposphere, Ariel learns the ability to enter the mind via a simulation much like a computer game.

Her first trip through the mind of her neighbor, two mice, and a cat, leads Ariel to question her own sanity. However, when two sinister men appear on the scene threatening her life, and looking for the book, Ariel realizes that she has come upon something that is frighteningly real.

The narrative flies along at a break-neck speed as Ariel tries to resolve the mystery of the book, the Troposphere, and why she is being hunted down. In the process of her flight, she learns how to travel through human thoughts, and meets the god of Mice.

Depending on your taste and interpretation, the plot of The End of Mr. Y can be perceived as intriguing, trippy, or ludicrous. One librarythinger even tagged the book as chick-lit. I guess when the collective female population decides to stop worrying about our weight, start chatting about philosophy, and begin to cut ourselves to feel alive, then maybe we can call this chick-lit. (I'm not saying that we don't already do this, I'm just saying that I don't consider this the sort of thing that you look for when you read chick-lit.) Trying to categorize this book will make your head hurt. If you haven't read it, then don't believe anything anyone tells you about this novel. You can't define this book with catch-phrases. And if you are looking for comfort, you will not find it between these pages.

The greatest thing about the novel, aside from its ideas on philosophy, science, and theology, is the main character.

Ms. Thomas creates a fully realized character in Ariel, one so convincing that for two-thirds of the book, I felt that Ariel and Ms. Thomas were one, and I was reading a journal rather than a novel. I found this feeling surprising due to the fantastical nature of the plot, but believe that it stands as evidence to the deftness of Ariel's characterization.

Ariel's character is defined by it's subtleties. Her aberrancy, like most people's, lay under the surface of her character, and allow her to be 3-dimensional. They give her depth, but because of their subtlety and complexity, allow her to escape generalizations. I found myself deeply engaged with her character throughout the novel.

The End of Mr. Y is the sort of book that asks you to question your beliefs of reality. In fact it may turn your world upside down with its many suggestions, and ideas. How you react to this will determine whether you enjoy this novel.

That is not to say that there weren't certain glitches along the way--- some of the conversations were lengthy and self-indulgent, and I found the ending to be a little too nicely wrapped up for my taste.

Still despite it's zany premise, and its narrative indulgence, The End of Mr. Y holds up amazing well under scrutiny as an entertaining and believable novel of ideas.

1 comment:

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