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I took a class in college called Electronic Rhetoric. Interesting stuff if a bit abstract. Unless you’ve been living in a cave you may have noticed that technology has affected the way people communicate. The way information is disseminated. Inter-personal dialogue has been replaced by texting, IMing, Emailing; sometimes words and letters aren’t even necessary. Have you ever used an ‘emoticon’? In ancient Greece, philosophic and political discourses would often last an entire day if not longer. Roosevelt’s fireside chats usually lasted about 30 minutes. Nowadays, if you count how many ‘cuts’ or camera edits in a single thirty second commercial….well, you’d be amazed.
What does this have to do with fiction? Well, let’s say fiction is the search for universal truth through analogy. Let’s say good fiction is universal truth distilled and filtered through the author. Still with me? Well, what’s an author to do when he/she must try and make sense of a hyper-technological world that inundates one with sensory overload every step of the way?
Ladies and Gentleman, I present to you Exhibit A. - John Wray’s Lowboy. It’s no secret many in the psychiatric field have found corollaries between postmodern endless stimuli and mental illness. Here we have fiction’s answer: Meet Lowboy. A paranoid schizophrenic who believes, none too dimly I might add, the world will end if he doesn’t stop it from overheating. He must prevent it from overheating by cooling his own body of its own fiery, lustful urges.
Wray adeptly finds an extraordinary marriage between the strengths of genre fiction and those of fiction considered more artsy or academic. Genre fiction tends to focus on plot driven narratives, usually fast moving. These are your page turners. Your mysteries. Your sci-fi thrillers. Your James Pattersons and Janet Evanoviches. The more academic, artsy-type literature usually focuses on strong character development. Your Emily Bronte novels. Your classic Victorian Literature. Your Iowa Workshop or Pushcart Prize authors. Yet Wray had no use for these fiction characteristics. He seamlessly wove a brilliant adventure story with one of the more captivating antagonists I’ve encountered.
Ok, quick wrap up. What did we learn today class…Wray brilliantly explores themes of mental illness in a postmodern setting. Wray tackles a character you might find on the streets mumbling to himself. Wray marries the best of both literary worlds. Wray takes you on an adventure through the seamy, underbelly of New York. Wray wrote a damn fine book. You should read Wray’s book.