Exhibit 1.8.24

The Lazarus Project

 

The Lazarus Project Hemon

I bought this in Powell’s looking for something to read on the flight, mostly on the long ago recommendation of my friend Colin. Colin’s a smart guy, I thought, and I’m pretty sure I’ve really enjoyed the stories of Hemon’s that I’ve read. Also it’s right here in front of me and this store–though awesome blah blah–is huge and why not.

It was a nice call by the verystoppable duo of Colin and my giveupatude. Hemon’s a dazzlingly sharp writer, and here he pulls off that layering of modern malaise and historical poignancy that so many writers of the 9/11-era seem to drawn to. I’m sure someone has written about how the greatest horrors of the 20th century keep showing up in the “big” books of the 21st, and so often authors seem to want to highlight those incalculable sums by contrasting them with contemporary cuteness. Hemon, however, does it better than most by keeping the focus not on those massive death tolls but on the death of one man.

And what makes the book great is that the story of Lazarus Averbuch–a real-life immigrant killed by the chief of police in Chicago–is the secondary story here behind the journey our mostly inept Bosnian-American narrator takes to investigate him in Eastern Europe where we confront not only the Balkan Civil War but an entire century’s worth of violence that has not stopped (or become magical or precious). It’s then, when we get full access to Hemon’s humor and melancholy, that the book becomes bigger and more relevant than so many of the works this might sound like in summary. The failure of memory. The depth of displacement in immigration. The limitations of American aloofness. The self-destruction in European imaginations. The power of marriage. The impotence of marriage. It’s a big book with big ideas hung around some very small, self-deprecating shoulders.

Similar in some ways to O’Neill’s Netherland in its portrait of a fracturing identity after immigration and marriage, like that book, Hemon’s is one very firmly taking place in our century where Lazaruses still abound, always dying, coming back, dying again, making a pretty compelling metaphor for a man searching for himself in a country searching for itself in a world entirely indifferent to searches.

Comment / Posted in 2013, Fiction, Lazaruses

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