Sunday, November 25, 2007

Oh dear...

Well, we've finally come to the end of Powers' novel. I'm going to be completely honest and just say from the start that I didn't like it. I suppose the actual truth of it is that I was ambivalent about it, but I was ambivalent for all 451 pages of it. He attempts to inspire a philosophical thought process in the reader, but it seems to me that he always falls short. His musings continually struck me as lack-lustre compared with the other material we read over the semester.

And then of course there's what I'm sure we'll all be talking about on Monday: the ending. Honestly, I didn't know the specifics the whole time, but I saw this one coming. There was something perpetually--and by the last quarter of the book, annoyingly--concealed about Barbara. Her nervousness when talking about medication, her continual self-deprecation...and the fact that she was such a lower level character for most of the book made her the perfect candidate for the big twist finale in a very classic-mystery kind of way. I suppose the revelation that she was trying to commit suicide and stepped in front of Mark's car was sufficient enough to get me excited, but somehow I had lost interest in ALL of Powers' characters by that point. They return continually to their ridiculously unfulfilling lives. I suppose this was one of the points Powers was trying to bring across with the whole crane metaphor, but by the end it just got redundant. Everyone messing up their life to various degrees. Nothing is ever resolved, like the book itself, really. I know, I know--in the end, people are just people. But honestly, you have to give some kind of denouement. But no, throw in an off-hand mention of how Mark is perfectly normal now and move on.

In the end, I feel that the main problem with this book is that it is simply too linear not to have any real kind of story arc. It seems like Powers could have written it very well if it were more disjointed, more about vignettes in the lives of people. He does this to a certain extent, but when he strings them together the way he does we end up wanting it either to be a typical story centered around the events, or else to be about character development. And it really isn't either of these. He gives all of the parts of a typical story and then doesn't follow through with any kind of cohesion.

1 comment:

maggie said...

I would have to disagree with some of what Patrick argued. I believe that Power's story is for the most part a deconstructed narrative and suitably reflects the issues of confabulation, Capgras, and personal relationships in The Echo Maker. Power's novel is vignette; he shifts his focus from sub-section to subsection, alternating between the birds story, Weber’s story, Mark and Karin's story, Karin and her various lover's stories, Mark and his various friend's stories, and finally Barbara's story. Each sub-plot seems disjointed because Power's illuminates the individual relationships the characters have with each other, and how those people manifest themselves differently in each relationship. Take Karin for instance. In her relationship with Mark she is the devote caretaker and Mark is the emotionally unresponsive recipient of the love and attention given to him. This contrasts with Karin's relationship with Daniel, where Karin takes on a kind of Capgras state and Daniel is the one poring a huge amount of his recourses and emotional stake into caring for Karin.

I think that this illumination of nuances of relationships and attention to the way relationships change under stress and involvement with neurological disorder is what Power's does well. He manages to show us what Livesey does in showing the illness that can emerge in all people, not just the clinically diagnosed. In his relationships he also manages shows us the kind of progression and layering effects of misidentification disorders can have, a kind of chain reaction.

I agree that the ending does not do a very good job tying everything together, mainly because I think there should have been no tying together. It not believable able that Mark suddenly comes back into reality and casually interacts with Karin as he does. I feel that all the other stories do not have much closure.