Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Nobodies Album

Carolyn Parkhurst wrote The Dogs of Babel, and Lost and Found, about people in an Amazing Race kind of television show. This, The Nobodies Album, is her latest.

            The Dogs of Babel : A Novel     The Nobodies Album     Lost and Found: A Novel

In this book, Octavia Frost is a semi-popular author who narrates the story...

"There are some stories no one wants to hear. Some stories, once told, won't let you go so easily. I'm not talking about the tedious, the pointless, the disgusting: the bugs in your bag of flour; your hour on the phone with the insurance people; the unexplained blood in your urine. I'm talking about narratives of tragedy and pathos so painful, so compelling, that they seem to catch inside you on a tiny hook you didn't even know you'd hung. You wish for a way to pull the story back out; you grow resentful of the very breath that pushed those words into the air. Stories like this have become a specialty of mine."

As the story unfolds, we find that her estranged son, a popular rock star, is accused of murdering his girlfriend. Also, her husband and daughter have been dead for years and we don't know why. In addition, Octavia is submitting her latest writing project, The Nobodies Album, to her publisher.

While she's telling the story of her son and the murder, she talks about this project, which is a collection of new endings for her previously published books, and whether or not one should change endings in established books.

  "I've always said that the ending of a novel should feel inevitable. You, the reader, shouldn't be able to see what's coming, but you should put the book down feeling satisfied that there's no other way it could have gone.
  "And yet, as I paged through the story I'd settled on, I could see the traces of the hundred different stories I'd rejected. Here I'd made a choice, and here, and here."

Interspersed in Octavia's narrative are the endings of the novels she wrote, the original endings, and then the revised endings she's submitting to the publisher.

So many things were going on in this book, the murder, the estrangement from her son, the deaths of her husband and daughter, Octavia's feelings about being a mother, how her life is (or isn't) part of all of her novels, the ending chapters of her previous novels...and it was all woven together brilliantly.

Carolyn Parkhurst is a creative and interesting writer. The Dogs of Babel was an compelling (if disturbing) story about trying to get dogs to talk, Lost and Found used a reality television show to bring out her characters, and here she uses writing and the process of writing to illuminate the story. This definitely qualifies as a Very Good Read, and I'm looking forward to see what she does next.

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