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Prisoner in a Red-Rose Chain
The Memory Artists

Morning Star
Monday 8 November 2004

Half-crazy experiment will play games with your mind

The Memory Artists
by Jeffrey Moore (W&N, £16.99)

In our time, when the distinction between fact and fantasy, reality and fiction grows daily more blurred, it is tempting for the novelist to play games with his reader, writes GORDON PARSONS.

Canadian prize-winning writer Jeffrey Moore presents us with a truly bizarre group of characters engaged in incredible pursuits.

He mixes straight narrative, overseen by a rather sinister Svengali-like professor of neurology, with diary entries, newspaper reports and end notes providing a sense of scholarly authenticity to his fantasy.

The central action focuses on Noel Burun's efforts to find a cure for his mother's Alzheimer's.

This is complicated by his own synaesthesia, a condition in which people, words, sounds and everyday experiences insistently and bewilderingly evoke sensations of colours in the mind.

He is also a hypermnesiac—he cannot forget anything.

His only friends are Norval, his hyper cynical physical double who is engaged in his own research project, to work progressively through the alphabet bedding women by name, and JJ, a brilliant clown-like eccentric trapped in childhood.

Setting all this aside, however, the novel leaves the impression that it is embedded in the author's real experience. Though not, of course the zany half-science, half-witchcraft, pharmacological experiments to produce the wonder cure.

Jeffrey Moore is obviously engaged with that tenuous and tentative relationship between memory and identity.

The publisher's press release notes that both his parents died of Alzheimer's—and, despite the quirky, tongue-in-cheek treatment of both plot and structure, there is a warmth and hope—even love—that infuses the relationships between characters all in their different ways locked in their personal prisons.


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