Monday, October 8, 2007

Does Memory Serve?

How much of your memory is truth, and how much of it is imaginary? Are the details of your life, how you met your first love, the first time you rode your bike on your own, or the first time you stole something, a creation of your imagination, or did it really happen that way? Could those memories that have shaped your life up to this point be, at least in part, completely fictional?

In "Dermaphoria", Craig Clevenger's sophomore effort, the lines between truth & fiction, memory and imagination, past and present become tangled and twisted into an inscrutible mess. As the book moves along, the memory of its main character becomes clearer and clearer, but you can never be sure if what he remembers is truth, or if the pieces of the puzzle are falling into the wrong places.

Eric Ashworth, a brilliant mind who's path leads him into clandestine chemistry, wakes to find himself in jail, badly burned, and no memory of what got him there. Slowly, with the assistance of shadowy new friends and illicit chemicals, he begins to piece his sad past together. While experimenting in his lab, Ashworth discovers a way to synthesise a new drug that becomes the new big thing on the street, and the big drug rings want a piece. Ashworth becomes a big piece in the drug racket, until it all goes wrong one night.

The beauty of "Dermaphoria" is the disjointed accounts of memory playing against the scattered and paranoid world of the present. As Ashworth begins to figure out who he was, his world begins to unravel, and the only thing he can remember he truly loved becomes an obsession. This obsession, a woman called "Desiree", may only be a figment of his imagination, but his consuming desire to find her pulls him deeper into the abyss. Finally, the world comes into sharp focus, and Ashworth does the only thing he can to put things right again, and finally find Desiree.

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