The Art of Impossibility
by Bill Wahl
Pub Date 13 Dec 2012
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“A fascinating exploration of identity, alienation, and relationship, written with a deft touch and ironic detachment. Challenging, entertaining, and deeply moving.” Sophie Duffy, author of The Generation Game
HOW DO YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE?
For many years Michael Wilson had managed to disregard the emptiness of his life in Pittsford, NY - until one day every piece of his identification is stolen. His farcical attempts to renew his identity expose him to a world of relationships he can no longer avoid – a world where Mary Magellan, an unpredictable conceptual artist, becomes important in ways Michael could not have imagined. A world where Michael must rely on Larry, a disgraced professor of logic, Sam, a lonely metal head living in his basement, and Julie, a manager of the Vital Records Department who takes a VERY personal interest in Michael’s problems. Hilarious, sad, and relevant. Here is a story of psychological collapse and the possibilities that exist at the boundaries of human experience.
“Wahl’s novel holds up a mirror to society, a place where alienation wins out over human connection and love all too often. This is one of those rare literary combinations - a novel which is profound and serious, and yet great fun to read”. Margaret James, author of The Silver Locket
“Shakes and illuminates at one and the same time. Absorbing, thought-provoking, and wonderfully written.” Professor Ernesto Spinelli, author of Tales of Un-knowing.
Serious, sad, thought-provoking - but very funny, too!
What would you do if every piece of your identity was stolen? This is the fascinating premise of this debut novel, which is by turns deeply moving, challenging and also hilarious. Michael Wilson has lost his identity and feels "a bit naked, walking around without the familiar feel of a wallet and all that's supposed to be in it", as one character in the story puts it. I'd feel naked, too. As Michael struggles to make sense of his new life, his old certainties slip away and by the end of the story he's not even sure what time is supposed to be. He's no longer aware of time "as a matter of numbered squares on a calendar, as tasks to be managed, as a routine to be kept". So what is time, then? Michael's adventures and misadventures as he tries to recover his identity in all senses of the word make up the story line of this novel, which asks lots of questions. Who are we, what defines us, what happens when we lose something precious? But, although the author discusses some important issues, don't take everything he says too seriously. The extracts from the journals of Professor Charles Kidding, for example - they're very entertaining and many of them had me snorting with helpless laughter. See the extract at the beginning of Chapter 26, which is about a man who won a lying competition being accused of cheating - hilarious! But I don't think any of us should be trying to make appointments to see Dr Kidding any time soon!
If you like to be challenged and to have your preconceptions and prejudices examined, but don't like to be lectured, this novel is for you. I loved it.