I never know quite how to respond to uber-postmodern novels, with the blurred lines between author and character, the unreliability of the narrators embroiled in identity crises. Despite the fact that I've taken lit theory classes, I never know quite how to describe the stories and structures and whatnot in everyday terms. Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles
is an existential crisis and a troublesome love story wrapped together with musings on truth and Singularity (the concept of machines developing consciousness). The narrator shares the same name as the author and I wonder how much of the story is meant to mirror IRL-Currie's experiences.
The character version of Currie has moved to a Caribbean island while the woman he has loved since childhood sorts out a messy divorce. While he's waiting for Emma to summon him, he reflects on the futility of their relationship and grieves for his recently deceased father. Pushed beyond his cognitive abilities to process anymore bullshit, he decides -- and fails -- to commit suicide. Instead, he allows the outside world to believe he is dead as he disappears to the Middle East, where he roams the desert less in search of redemption or epiphany as numbness.
The characters in this book are largely unsympathetic. They behave selfishly and often impulsively, and it's clear to me that the dysfunctional love story at the center of much of it is less about love than it is about a lack of self-awareness. Given the many musings on consciousness that Currie has folded into the story, I imagine much of that was intentional. It's an interesting contrast, the idea that machines may one day gain consciousness and buck against human conventions such as love and heartbreak set against this narrative of two people who are clearly just not even remotely close to being good for each other not matter how much they want to be together. They are a couple that literally has to engage in violence in order to feel when they are together, and not once throughout this book was I rooting for them.
To pull one sentence out of this book to sum it up:
"A simple equation: time plus grief, multiplied by base human failure."
There's a lot of grief and base human failure disguised as self-pity here. And yet, the book is an often lovely musing on many big ideas and I found myself completely engaged by Currie's writing. It reminded me of The Automatic Sweeteheart problem, a paper I had to write in a class I took on the philosophic groundwork of psychology that made me almost violent with frustration (that may have been because Sibicky too much enjoyed playing devil's advocate). If you're the kind of person who doesn't necessarily need a lot of plot movement or likable characters in their novels, if you like thinking about existential questions and deconstructing the lines between reality and fiction, I'm sure this is the book for you.