Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Max Frei Introduces THE STRANGER: Altered Egos and Alternate Realities

Book blogger Rick Kleffel takes on The Stranger by Max Frei in this inspired new post:

"Literary tricksters get up to all sorts of shenanigans. Take for example, "Max Frei," the "author" of The Stranger. It might take readers a few heartbeats to figure out what exactly is going on, even though the title of the first chapter "Debut in Echo" is a pretty good clue, because "Max Frei" is both the author and the narrator of this novel. A memoir, you ask? Well, sure — a memoir in which the author journeys to an alternate reality when he sleeps. And that's probably the least strange aspect of this novel. Max Frei, the narrator / author of The Stranger tells us from the get-go that he just doesn't sleep very well, except during the day. And there's an exception there, as well, because when he falls to sleep he awakens in a dream world that's vivid enough to support what is now a ten-novel series, written originally in Russian.

The Stranger offers up a series of adventures but not necessarily a single plot arc beyond the continual and quite entertaining evolution of "Max Frei." That said, the spiky, smart prose and the often exceedingly cool surrealism that shoot through this book will certainly satisfy those looking for something rather different. The Russian flavor of the proceedings gives even the most ordinary stuff a weird sort of exoticism. Now all this sidesteps a rather major issue to my mind, that is, that the book is actually the work not of "Max Frei," the main character, but instead Svetlana Martynchik, who has been publishing book reviews as well as books under the pen name of Max Frei. So, big surprise, there is no city of Echo, and the only magicians are the ones who made half the wealth of this world disappear like, overnight.

While the world dances on the graves of Publishing Establishment, the establishment itself seems to be doing rather better than one might presume. Overlook Press is a great example. Peter Mayer and his crew of iconoclastic editors have a charmingly eclectic sense of taste, they work totally independently, and they're a general interest press, publishing non-fiction, literary fiction and outside stuff like this in hardcover original editions. Perhaps it's Overlook that resides in a dream world; and it's not a bit surprising that they've found Max Frei."

No comments: