How the Dead Dream - Lydia Millet

Privately, he thought, at the heart of it, you wanted animals to turn to you in welcome. It was a habit gained from expecting each other to do this, from expecting this of other people and only knowing people, not knowing anything beyond them. That was another kind of solitude, the kind where there was nothing all around but reflections.

I forget where I first heard about this book, but I remember it cropped up in several places with favorable reviews. When it arrived at the library I put it at the top of my list to read, no longer recalling much about the plot. To be honest, I'm a little disappointed and although it's not a horribly written book, I also wouldn't rush to recommend it.

There's an overall sense of detachment that pervades the book. T., the main character, is a solitary sort of person. As a boy he was obsessed with money and its implications, the institutions that held it and the way it moved through the world. The first chapter or so makes for somewhat amusing reading, as T. wheels and deals in his early years, taking one classmate's allowance for protection from the bullies, or rounding up pledges for a walk he didn't actually participate in. But as we jump to his adult years, we realize how disconnected he is from other people and we're never really made to care. T. eventually suffers various losses, any of which could be devastating to your average person. But the way he reacts (and the way it's written) is without feeling.

Even his name, T., is a cipher. You eventually discover his name but it's appropriate that he's just an initial for most of the book, because despite learning a lot of his inner thoughts he's not somebody you really feel like you come to know. Very gradually he shifts his focus from making money, but only to become obsessed with "last ones," the last of various species bordering on extinction. The author works for the Center for Biological Diversity and there's plenty of references to creatures that are dying out, probably all well-researched.

The only thing that really made me react much was after T.'s mother comes out of a coma: she has a renewed zeal for her faith after finding herself in an IHOP and not being sure if it was "hell, purgatory, or as she first implied a disappointing version of heaven ..." She becomes worried about T.'s soul, fretting that he'll end up in a House of Pancakes when he dies. It's a minor bit which crops up from time to time in the rest of the book, but aside from that there was little to make me laugh or cry.

Fed to jonathan's brain | October 07, 2008 | Comments (0)


Post a comment

Remember Me?