Monday, August 22, 2011

Not Quite Feeling The Echo

Richard Powers' 'The Echo Maker' isn't normally a book I'd pick up. It's the man's kind of genre. I like my books easier, so to speak. But I don't mind realism fiction once in a while. (A summary of the novel is found in this 2006 article.) The phrase 'echo-maker' hints at how stories could be impressed upon into memories and how that echo could help distinguish between reality and perception.

"But indisputably, Capgras and paranoia correlated. No surprise, then, when Mark's scores showed mild paranoid tendencies. Just what horror the flashes of persecution and clowning held at bay, Weber's tests could not determine."

There're so many things going on in the novel that I felt a little stretched. First, twist your tongues around the medical terms and have on hand, Google to check out all the various terminology and associated symptoms. After that, ask you whys and what as to how the protagonist Mark had gotten into an accident on that fateful night. Then there's the complexity of the relationship with his primary caregiver- his sister Karin. It explores also the character of Karin vis-à-vis her insecurities and questions of her existence in this world. The truth of the accident is revealed later in the book by his 3 best friends, but the story doesn't end there. It's about what happens after to Mark, of his journey, his mind and ultimately, his sense of self.

There's a parallel plot (pun intended) of local politics on Platte river where the sand cranes gather and it's earmarked for urban redevelopment. I thought it's a little far to pull together ecological significance and ideas on cognition versus themes on mental states.

"What does a bird remember? Nothing that anything else might say. Its body is a map of where it has been, in this life and before. Arriving at these shallows once, the crane colt knows how to return. This time next year, it will come back through, pairing for life. The year after next: here again, feeding the map to its own new colt. Then one more bird will recall just what birds remember."

It isn't a terrible book. It isn't boring. It doesn't exactly struggle to present the full picture to the reader. Dichotomies abound. Undeniably, Richard Powers writes well. He presents a disjointed frame in this book exactly the way he would have it, leaving the reader not too depressed and rather pensive. But it's this genre that I don't quite take to and I almost regret picking it up. For a reader who's inclined towards horror and fantasy, I'm not sure I like the human portions of it.


Anonymous said...

i would love to read you, if you write a book one day. there are many values you hold that i think is healthy for self esteem. :)

imp said...

tuti: i'm going to put a smiley face here. and will drop you an email. :)