Norman Lock's postmodern metaphysical novel, A History of the Imagination, brings these two and dozens of other fin de siécle figures -- both historical and fictional -- to Mombasa, an island port city just off the Kenyan coast. Beginning in 1910 and stretching past the end of World War I (including brief safaris to the end of history), they come to Africa during a time of colonial retreat to impose their own philosophies on the African jungle's "darkness" (an idea Lock mercilessly slices and dices with his deconstructive Ginsu).
The novel is, by design, barely held together by the story of N. (The name is an in-joke for English majors and scholars, who use the abbreviation to refer to an unnamed narrator.) N. is also in Mombasa ... or maybe he's in the Hamptons, avoiding the grief of losing his beloved Anna by dreaming of Mrs. Willoughby, beautiful lover to many an anxious man in Mombasa until she is abducted by the pre-postmodernly confident Kong.
Lock writes a history whose factual inventions would fail it in most college survey courses. "There is another history," N. asserts, "that exists side by side with the one you know." N. tells of the assaults on and victories of the imagination in the age of Einstein's relativity theory, the "aeroplane," trench warfare and weaponized gas, the movie camera, the sinking of the Titanic, and the flight of Halley's comet (in which Teddy Roosevelt sees "the century unraveling from this single knot of light").
Aggressively psychoanalyzed toward reason and "good mental health" by Freud, and tempted toward romanticism by Matisse and Tarzan's Jane, N. ultimately glories in the indeterminacy, the staggering multiplicity of the postmodern age, seeing marvelous beauty in the same science that turns starlight to a particle dust and finds comfort in "the sweet disorder of Anna's hair."
See you in the treetops, fellow primates, when next we make with the monkey love and howl at the conquered moon.A History of the Imagination by Norman Lock. Published by FC2, a Tallahassee publishing collective dedicated to nontraditional fiction. $15.95. 223 pages.
Little harsh, in'it?
Oh that's right...I DID say enjoy yourself.
Go to hell Kombo!
When will you be accepting applicants for the 2014 competition?
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