Thursday, February 7, 2013

Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles by Ron Currie, Jr.

Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles

I did not read any of Currie’s earlier works, so I did not know until now that his first novel, Everything Matters!, was so well received. But I could tell upon beginning this book that this was someone who bumped up hard against sudden celebrity—those moments when strangers seem to think they know you intimately. Not so fast, Currie seems to say.

The book tells of a character named Ron Currie who is perpetually “in recovery” over the love of a woman, Emma, who returns his love but marries another. The book’s narrator leads a life of dissipation on a Caribbean isle while ostensibly writing another book. The book he ends up writing is all about Emma.

This is a book about the nature of fiction. A novel, by its very definition, is fiction, or lies, or “not factual.” But Currie goes to some lengths to point out that it is not necessarily “untruth.” Fiction may be more truth than real truth, he seems to say.
“From the perspective of a novelist, there is a brand of lying that feels more honest than the actual facts of an event. Lying as a way to move closer to the truth, or to illuminate how something actually feels in a way that mere facts cannot.”
At its best, this novel could be read as a defense for James Frey, whose fictional memoir, A Million Little Pieces, about his time battling drug addiction, hit the world stage like a bomb. Frey was giving a better truth, a more real truth, and those truths were no less true than the truth.

Fiction, Currie tells us, does not tell us how much he loves his Emma. It tells us how much we readers love our own special person. It gives us words for things we cannot articulate, but that we feel none-the-less. The closeness we feel with an author is illusion, since they are lying and we are not. The feelings the author evokes are real. The author sets us up for connection, and if he succeeds, we do connect.

Anyway, to get to the end, we spend quite a lot of time navel-gazing…at Currie’s navel. This is self-conscious literature by someone who suggests that fiction succeeds when the author writes “honestly,” and allows readers to believe. If so, that bit about dissipation on the island felt too honest, and evoked in me the feeling that Currie knew a little too much about drinking, fighting, rough sex, and driving off piers with the intent to kill. True or not, it’s a l-i-t-t-l-e too close for comfort, and I want to tell him to knock it off. I want to tell him to have a look at Saunder's new book, Tenth of December: Stories. This is someone who came out on the other side of "what fiction is" with his sense of humor intact.

So, what are Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles? I’m not telling. You go find out for yourself. But I’m sort of scratching my head over the title still. I have no idea why they didn’t name it The Singularity.

You can buy this book here: Shop Indie Bookstores

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