“Erase the author” is a term you’ll encounter in some high-level literature courses. It basically means writing in such a way that you forget that you are sitting on a couch reading a story about a character that someone else wrote. Baret Magarian takes the concept to the extreme in the novel The Fabrications.
Daniel Bloch is a writer stuck in a rut. He has found some success by writing popular fiction but tires of writing drivel. Oscar Babel is a failed painter who now runs a cinema. Inspired by his friend’s misery, Daniel begins a new novel loosely based upon him, but with everything a success. Both are disconcerted when the things that Daniel writes begin to come true. Through a series of happenings, Oscar adopts a cat, his landlord becomes quite pleasant, and he takes up life modelling. These are all things that Daniel had written for his friend. Things really change when famed publicity agent Ryan Rees finds Oscar and sets out to create a phenomenon out of him. In a few days, Oscar goes from cowering from his landlord in a tiny vermin-laced flat to being a national celebrity staying in the most posh of London hotels.
Daniel also undergoes a transformation. He is at once terrified and obsessed with his story, and he struggles to not write any more but ends up adding chapters. He is drained by this, to the point where he is bedridden and ultimately hospitalized. He continues to create for Oscar when he is too weak to continue through a series of tapes of disjointed philosophy and observations, which Oscar uses to write the speeches that are the driver of his career.
There is so much going on in this book that I feel like I need to read it a few more times. There are plenty of questions about art and the process of making art, the cost to the artist, and the questions of authenticity. Ryan Rees is a Luciferian manipulator, offering Oscar the kingdoms of Earth in exchange for a contract. Daniel’s plunge into asceticism calls to mind the story of the Buddha.
But it isn’t the philosophical underpinnings that make this book a delight. The absurdist moments in the book are laugh-out-loud funny. Early in the book, a minor character goes into the shop of a fortune-teller who isn’t very good at his job. He ends up asking the character to pretend to be his fiancée, as he has not come out of the closet to his parents yet. This goes about as well as you might expect.
Even though there are clearly moments of absurdism, there is none of the implausibility of the genre. Every moment has a logical progression. Oscar’s adoption of the things in Daniel’s book come from plausible events. This lets you see how artificial and arbitrary celebrity is and how, with the right publicist, anyone can be a star.
Smart, witty, and honest, The Fabrications is a book that will leave you thinking about it for a long time after you have put it down. You will find yourself making connections and wondering if they are intentional or if they are part of a story you are telling yourself.
|Page Count||440 pages|
|Publisher||Pleasure Boat Studio|
|Bookshop.org||Buy this Book|