Tuesday, 17 May 2016

Oates, Joyce Carol "The Man Without a Shadow"


Oates, Joyce Carol "The Man Without a Shadow" - 2016

I am one of the biggest Joyce Carol Oates fans. I have not read all of her books, yet, but whenever I come across a new one, I just have to read it. So, I was glad to find this on the "new" bookshelf in my library and had to borrow it right away.

Like all her other stories, this is a highly interesting, fascinating one, one that captivates you from the first page and doesn't release you until the last page has been turned. We get to learn the characters all so well, their thoughts, their hopes, their ambitions, their wishes for the future. Only, that for one of them in this novel there is no real future, it always ends after seven minutes. One of the two main characters suffers from amnesia, the other one is a scientist who studies his brain in particular and thereby hopes to find more insight into the human brain in general.

All of JCO's novels have a definitive distinction, she never repeats her subject, every book can stand on its own and gives so much insight into the topic. The words in her stories flow together in a natural way, even her scientific parts make sense to someone who is not scientific at all, like me. Her characters are complex, not easy, not flawless at all, just interesting to watch. While following the stories of Margot and Elihu, we can try to understand what memory means, why we remember certain parts of our lives and not others and what it would mean if all that was taken from us.

After reading this book, I only have one question, the same I ask myself every time I read one of JCO's novels: When is she finally going to be awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature?

From the back cover: "In 1965, a young research scientist named Margot Sharpe is introduced to Elihu Hoopes, an attractive, charismatic amnesiac whose short-term memory has been devastated by a brief illness.
Charming, mysterious, and deeply lonely, Eli is tortured by his condition. Trapped eternally in the present moment, he is also haunted by a fragmented memory from his childhood: the disturbing image of an unknown girl’s body, floating under the surface of a lake.
Inspired and moved by her exceptional patient, Margot dedicates her professional life to him and, in so doing, establishes for herself an exceptional career in the rapidly expanding field of neuroscience.
But where is the line between scientific endeavor and personal obsession? And how to interpret the wishes of a person who is trapped outside time?
Atmospheric and unsettling, The Man Without a Shadow is a poignant exploration of loneliness, ethics, passion, aging, and memory - intricately, ambitiously structured and made both vivid and unnerving by Oates’s eye for detail and her searing insight into the human psyche."

Two books are mentioned in the novel that talk about the same subject:
Luria, Alexander R. "The Man with a Shattered World. The History of a Brain Wound" (Goodreads)
Luria, Alexander "The Mind of a Mnenomist. A Little Book About a Vast Memory" (Goodreads)

6 comments:

  1. I'm going back through some of your posts and now I'm feeling very intimidated by your knowledge of books lol. I think I need to be more discerning in my choice of literature. However I'm excited because your blog has lots of interesting good stuff and I love learning about new authors I've not heard of.

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    1. Don't feel intimidated. Everyone should read what they enjoy. We can all work together to find books we enjoy that we might not have found in our local bookshop. I have been lucky to have lived in an international environment for a long time, I had my first foreign pen friend when I was 14, went abroad when I was 22 and have lived among foreigners ever since. With the internet, that has only improved.

      I'm really looking forward to seeing what you read and getting to know you better.

      Happy Reading,
      Marianne

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  2. Off to Amazon again, you always give me such good recommendations. I've read a couple of hers, but not this one.

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    1. You are welcome, Janet. I love Joyce Carol Oates and this is her newest. I had put it on my wishlist and then the library had it on their "new" board, just couldn't resist.

      Hope you'll like it just as much as I did.

      Have a good day,
      Marianne

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  3. I am about to read this one. Two of my reading groups picked it! You are so right when you say "All of JCO's novels have a definitive distinction, she never repeats her subject, every book can stand on its own and gives so much insight into the topic." I just finished reading Missing Mom and darn if she didn't somehow make the loss of one's mother universal as well as personal for her characters. I agree about the Nobel Prize!!

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    1. Always happy to find another JCO fan. "Missing Mom" is no my wishlist but I lost my mohter last year and it might be a little too early. We'll see. Thanks anyway for the comment, I see we have the same feeling about this great author.

      Marianne

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