Saturday, November 30, 2013

The Three Lives of Tomomi Ishikawa, by Benjamin Constable. Gallery Books, 2013

I’m not entirely sure how to review this novel. It’s told from the point of view of Benjamin Constable- yes, the author’s name but this is supposed to be work of fiction. Benjamin’s best friend, Tomomi ‘Butterfly’ Ishikawa, disappears and leaves him a note: she has committed suicide. But her note sends him on a game of treasure hunt all around Paris and then on to New York City, leaving parts of her journal in hidden places. It’s like a mad cross between Kafka on the Shore and Angels and Demons.

I couldn’t even begin to like Butterfly, with her manipulation of Benjamin and another friend, Beatrice. She treats them horribly, especially Benjamin, torturing him physically and emotionally. If this is how she treats her friends, I’d hate to see what she’d do to an enemy. The descriptions of Benjamin’s journey through Paris and New City are pleasant enough, but that is not enough to sustain a book. And what does the author mean by naming his protagonist for himself? Is he trying to say that this really happened to him? Is it just one more illusion in this book where the reader- and Benjamin for most of the story- has no idea what is real and what isn’t? Or was the author just tired of the question every writer gets: “Is this character you??”

I think I’m not cool enough to appreciate this avant garde book. 

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