Sunday, February 1, 2015

Review: "Life A User's Manuel" by Georges Perec

I am still trying to wrap my head around all of the ideas the late French author Georges Perec put into what is considered his masterpiece, Life A User’s Manuel. It is for sure not a hard book to get through, like some novels of this ilk, despite some less than stellar aspects, but for sure imagination and accomplishment, I feel this book has to be checked out by anyone who is interested in the limits of fiction writing, because it destroys all of them, which is something Perec was known for. His novel, Avoid/A Void is a full length, 300-page novel where he never once uses the letter “e”. But despite these constraints he put on himself, he never forces them on the audience, generously welcoming them into to view his odd perspective on the world, and when you come out on the other side, you are sure to find a newfound clarity. There is no real plot, despite the books 568-page length. It is structured around a single moment in time, June 23, 1975 at 8:00 PM, and a single apartment building in Paris. Perec takes us on a strange journey into the minutiae of lives lived. It features longs lists of family, histories, paintings, and even trash left in the stairwell, recipes, and other sorts of things we forget about as we live our life. It is sometimes funny, with Perec never above a bad pun or two, and sad, with many of the people living in this apartment building carrying a lot of depressing history with them. It reminded me a lot of the tone Infinite Jest had, were the constant details were simply away to avoid depression. It can be tiring for some, myself included, but reading this, I knew I was taking part in something special from a greatly underappreciated writer.

Rating: 4/5

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