A question I have often asked myself, even going as far as to cogitatively write down following a morning of people-watching. However, if you are Richard Novak in AM Homes’ stunning ‘This Book Will Save Your Life’, on any normal day you wake early, run on the treadmill for an hour while monitoring the stock markets, enjoy a low-carb breakfast as part of a nutritionally planned low-carb diet and read four newspapers – all immersed in complete silence thanks to the latest noise-cancelling headset; a permanent and necessary accessory in achieving total isolation.
Yet it is not until page 315 of this 372 page, dare I say it, (post-) modern masterpiece that this rhetoric emerges, when we are already well-acquainted with Richard, our alluring protagonist; Anhil the donut shop owner, Cecelia the cleaner, Cynthia the weeping ex-housewife, a brother, an ex-wife, a son, environmental officers, fictional celebrities and Bob Dylan; all of whom provide the necessary motivation - amidst blunt phone calls and infinite expenditure - to develop a new perspective on life.
The reader is the serene witness the spectacle of a man letting go and simultaneously reconnecting – and if it takes a subtle donut to be the catalyst, so be it. Even with multiple readings it would seem Homes’ greatest achievement is her ability to keep the reader in the moment, despite the surreal events and transcendental under-current. Each (‘Hollywood’) scene is captivating in its absurdity, but often ‘misplaced in memory’ (not forgotten) as the story unfolds. It is only in later narrative and subsequent recollection that one finds true pleasure in the sequencing of events, the subtle act of referral something Homes’ does impeccably.
Novak’s cynicism, supressed generosity and apparent relative lack of human connection are part-due to his ingrained analytic nature, and increasing penchant for solitude, but in fact demonstrate beautifully the ease in which one can become so removed from the world, even in the most intrusive of landscapes. Both consciously and unconsciously, he has drifted away, but in the same fashion, rebuilds himself with wavering circumstances and welcome digression.
Like Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Everybody’s Free To Wear Sunscreen’ in novel-form (though thankfully delivered more astutely than simply stating; ‘’I will dispense this advice, now…’’) it is nevertheless, Richard Novak’s own meandering experience that provides the ultimate snapshot, or even series of snapshots, making an album to be shelved under ‘pulp fiction’. With the film version supposedly under production, scheduled for release in 2013, Tarantino would be an unlikely visionary, Sam Mendes (American Beauty, Revolutionary Road) would get my vote with his ability to recreate Gregory Crewdson-esque production sets. Alternatively, there are definitely moments Noah Baumbach would devour, or perhaps even local legend David Lynch would do justice to this book… and this film… and this man…
‘’He is floating, drifting and he is breathing and watching his breath and watching the sky.’’