Monday, March 10, 2014

The World of Paranoia

Long ago, the man wanted to flip through Rick Moody's 'The Omega Force' and insisted on buying it. It wasn't on my priority of reads. I left it on the shelf till it stained brown from the interaction of humidity and sulfuric acid. After finishing it, I wished I had left it on the shelf. Grrr.

The book comprises three novellas satirising modern-day America, it's really all about drugs, alcohol and politics- title story 'The Omega Force', 'K&K' and 'The Albertine Notes'. No issues with the choice of topics. I'm just not quite fond of the author's writing and presentation style. However, the central theme of the book is paranoia. Perhaps that means something. Of how we don't understand it unless we live it. And how we'll never truly know what is unreal or simply in our heads till it seems real. (Read reviews here, here and here.)

The title story spins around post-9/11 America, paranoia and of the protagonist James Van Deusen who has retired lives on an island not far from a nuclear plant. He somehow woke up one morning on a neighbor's porch with a spy thriller next to him. Cue ensuing paranoid terrorist scenarios. The plot was lost in a maze. The third story bored me to tears. Narrated by protagonist failed reporter Kevin Lee, 'The Albertine Notes' revolves around post-nuclear-bombed New York, and how a drug Albertine became immensely popular because it allows survivors to relive memories of pre-nuclear destruction. And in course of research, a journalist discovers perhaps one could have averted the disaster. Many people seem to pick the third story as their favorite of the book. But its pseudo sci-fi tone put me to sleep.

The second story of 'K&K' is the one I don't mind. I assume the title stands for protagonist office manager Ellie Knight-Cameron's office of Kolodny & Kolodny Insurance in Connecticut. It tells of how Ellie begins receiving aggressive suggestions in the office suggestion box which used plenty of vulgarities about situations out of her control, for example, traffic jams. The aggression seems to have stemmed from office politics. But in the end, it was also hinted that Ellie "was herself the only possible author of the suggestions".

Ellie had nothing much in the way of organizational power. In fact, the suggestion box existed mainly to enforce camaraderie at the K&K coffee station. Usually, therefore, the suggestions were kind of routine. Can we possibly get a blend with a little hazelnut in it? Just once in a while? Even if Dolly Halloran hated vanilla hazelnut variety that Ellie later selected, the suggestion in this instance had met with general favour in the office, bringing good cheer to the lounge area. 
...Which conclusion? The one in which Ellie was herself the only possible author of the suggestions? And if she was the only person who could have failed to see this, if it was evident to even the most casual observer that she was both protagonist and antagonist, what did this tell us about the way we lived in those days?

Still. Can't believe we paid Kinokuniya bookstore S$38.47 for this book.

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