The Confabulist

Gol darn school will be the end of me.  My mind’s been getting overloaded and torn apart these past few months with the workload that’s just endlessly lining up, out the door and down the street, each assignment politely waiting it’s turn to snuff my life out if the assignment before it didn’t get the job done.

But I read a great book called The Confabulist by Stephen Galloway.  So there’s that.

In this novel, an old dude (Martin Strauss) has just been diagnosed with some sort of amnesia, wherein he’s losing his own memories, reconstructing new, false ones, and will slowly, but surely, lose his mind.

There are basically three perspectives told in this novel.  Martin Strauss as an old dude, who just got the news from the doctor and, knowing he’ll lose his mind, wants to tell Harry Houdini’s daughter Alice (whom he’s known for quite some time), the true story of how he killed Houdini.

Martin Strauss as a young college FRAT KID (not really), which is his recollection of the past when he killed Houdini.

Both are told in 1st POV

The 3rd is Harry Houdini, told in 3rd POV, which I believe is Strauss telling Houdini’s story based on what he had learned from his interactions with Houdini and what he read on the great magician.

I gotta say, out of the 3 perspective, Houdini’s was by far the most fun to read.  He’s an interesting character with an interesting relationship to his wife.  He gets pulled into a lot of internation political intrigue and is constantly on the lookout for his life (bcuz of intrigue and the life-threatening escapes he does for entertainment).

The Strauss perspectives can get pretty bland.  There’s far less personality in Strauss than in Houdini, far less conviction about who he is.  He’s just a timid fluff who, for whatever reason, does something completely out of character (I’ll get to that in a moment), then spends the rest of the book moping.

I don’t want to discuss the plot of this book because it is rather plot heavy and plot dependent, but I do want to talk about one plot point early on which is based off of Houdini’s real presumed death.

There’s a story, IRL, that two college age (i think) boys visited Houdini in a back room and asked him if he truly could withstand any punch to the stomach.  Houdini said he could, so long as he prepared, and the boy who asked immediately flew into battering Houdini’s stomach with his fists.  Houdini finally told him to stop after like 3 punches, saying he was not given time to prepare.  He was in a lot of pain for his performance that night, and over the next few days refused to see a doctor.  He died something like 3 days after from a ruptured spleen or summat.  Look it up, the story is quite available, and I’m an undependable reviewer 😉

Galloway uses that story as one of the plot points early on for young Strauss: this guy, who’s pretty timid and quietly, sees Houdini in a bar after watching his show.  Strauss’s friend (not strauss himself) asks Houdini the question about withstanding a punch, and then it is Strauss who, for no reason whatsoever and honestly I don’t think galloway did a good job justifying the action, stepped into a full-bodied punch against Houdini’s stomach.  Strauss finds out in the news Houdini died from his punch and he goes into hiding, because Houdini is “the most famous man in the world,” and people wouldn;t be happy with what he did, and rightfully so.  I know I wasn’t.

Now, although this book is based on a real man, it is entirely fiction and you should not go into it thinking any of the events you read about actually happened, although Galloway claims he used transcripts of real conversations or what people actually said where possible.

All in all, it’s a fun read and pretty well written.  It’s got a fairly controversial ending that may piss some people off, but i won’t talk about that or spoil it.  I’ll just say this book is an enjoyable read, but no where near as good as the Cellist of Sarajevo, another Galloway book I reviewed a while ago.


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