“Sparkling, darkly humorous novel….A resplendent tale.”
– Kirkus Review
THE FABRICATIONS (Pleasure Boat Studio; June 1, 2017; Trade Paperback; $19.95) is a wildly inventive, comic novel centered on a bizarre idea: what if someone’s fictional story about your life started to come true?
When Oscar Babel, a cinema projectionist languishing in obscurity, is befriended by Daniel Bloch, a popular novelist, strange things begin to happen when Bloch starts to write about Oscar. Oscar’s life changes course as he becomes a 21st century messiah. At the same time Bloch’s life descends into the darkness (and madness) that his friend narrowly escaped.
Feeding in and out of this central spine are other stories: Bloch’s reconciliation with his father, who was seduced by Bloch’s ex-wife Natalie; the career of the brilliant but unsuccessful painter Najette, Oscar’s muse and lover; and ever more insane instances of PR stunts, as master-minded by the demonic publicist Ryan Rees. Eventually Oscar’s fame and myth balloon out of all proportion and the novel draws to an unforgettable climax.
THE FABRICATIONS possesses peculiar relevance to our tumultuous times. At the center of the novel is Ryan Reese, a Trump/Murdock like character. His main motivation is to manipulate society at large, spread anarchy and create propaganda. He derives pleasure from his power to sow the seeds of hope only to dash them and destroy them whenever he feels like. To this end he seizes upon Oscar Babel, an obscure blank slate of a man he can easily manipulate, orchestrating Babel’s rise to fame through “fabrications” designed to turn him into a contemporary savior of society.
The book addresses the way shadowy off-stage figures retain the real power, as their puppets and creations dance to their tunes, and the public follows suit. The novel also explores the myths of celebrity, the power of the Internet to disfigure and distort, and the madness of our culture, in which prophets, truths and legends can all be invented.
Part meditation on synchronicity, identity and sex, part satirical critique of contemporary society, and part love story, THE FABRICATIONS is a novel that abandons realism and attempts to create a parallel universe that offers deep truths about the chaos and beauty of our own. It jostles with dazzling stories, and memorable, grotesque characters, and will take you on a wild ride, lurching among pathos, hilarity and profundity, breaking the rules of fiction in creating something subversive and beautiful.
By Baret Magarian
Pleasure Boat Studio; June 2017
Trade Paperback; $19.95
Inside the limousine Rees talked incessantly, telling Oscar it was important for him to be noticed at the party they were going to.
Despite the sound of Rees’s voice – rendered less irritating than usual in the sepulchral calm of the limousine – Oscar had an impression of incredible well-being. He could study the occupants of the cars moving alongside them through tinted windows which ensured his own invisibility. He was surprised to find he was thrilled to be riding in the limousine. There was something vaguely illicit about the experience and he abandoned himself to it. The car’s motion did not actively impress itself on his senses; rather it was felt subliminally, like a tremor, an imagined sound of thunder.
It was midnight by the time they arrived.
The limousine turned into a private, sumptuous avenue free of cars and full of some of the grandest houses Oscar had ever seen. The predominant impression the street gave was of whiteness. Every exterior looked as if it had just that moment been painted. The limousine stopped outside a house whose stucco facade was magically lit by golden floodlights. It made Oscar think of a gigantic wedding cake, tier upon tier reaching heavenwards.
They walked up to the entrance and were greeted by a footman.
Inside, as Oscar marveled at the grandeur of the hallway, the Bohemian crystal chandeliers and the sumptuous staircase, he was aware of Rees only vaguely as if the latter were locked in a misty bubble from which he emerged from time to time. In the hall a group of Indian men in loincloths were playing sitars and tablas. A few people were scattered about listening, sipping blue, green and pink cocktails. It was sparse, refined music – it did not demand to be listened to, but its recurring patterns, its percussive continuities were calming. Rees and Oscar climbed the stairs, brushing against some of the guests coming down in great droves, and came eventually to a gargantuan ballroom with paneled doors and a ceiling crowded with figures who seemed to have stepped out of Renaissance Florence, their gravitas contrasting, as Oscar thought, with the abandon of the people jostling together in an untamed throng. Outside, a stone balcony looked out onto the silent street. There were more guests gathered there, squeezed between spectacular geraniums. Eerie, otherworldly music was playing in the ballroom. At the far end there was a long, sleek table with a brilliantly polished mirror for its surface. A pyramid of cocaine was piled up on it and various men were crushing it up with credit cards and other flat surfaces. They reminded Oscar of dealers, cutting cards at casinos, and had that same air of skill and bravado. All around the table people were snorting the white powder through little gold tubes and rolled up bank notes.
No one took any notice of Oscar and Rees as they made their way toward the bar and the small plates of food that sat there, unmolested. Rees was talking, babbling but Oscar refused to listen. He wished he would go away. Rees needed endless energy to be around him; his every utterance was designed to prove something, to persuade or to sell. The barman poured Oscar a glass of red wine and Rees a Bloody Mary.
‘Oscar,’ said Rees, ‘make sure that you get around, sample the different characters. Don’t be shy.’
And with that he strode brazenly into the crowd. Oscar was as surprised as he was delighted.
There was a truly astonishing mix of fashions, faces and characters now claiming his attention. Many of the men looked Latinate and wore their hair slicked back, the lines drawn by the comb still intact. Others were less suave, but were uniformly smart, with their starched shirts and immaculate trousers. But it was the women who really held his attention, in their kimonos and embroidered negligees, catsuits and saris; with their predatory, ornate, aggressive footwear; their black onyx beads, gaudy rings and searingly patterned stockings. Oscar found himself thinking of these people not merely as strangers, as he would normally, but rather as individual selves, with rich and complex existences. He wondered what their lives were like, the shape of their histories, what it was they did, who they loved, who they hated. It was thrilling to soak everything up, to speculate on the usually hidden layers of people’s lives, but he was afraid his head would burst like a bubble crammed with too much oxygen.
Tucked away in a quiet corner a girl in torn jeans crouched on a chair. She held onto the arching armrests with gangly arms, while her legs were crossed over each other and planted into the large cushion underneath. She was bending her sinewy hands into the shape of binoculars. She fastened them onto her face and peered around through this imagined lens, looking this way and that, making sharp movements with her head, like a robot. Then suddenly her head was swaying wildly, following the rhythms of the music. Then it was hanging limply, her hair flopping about, reaching her knees, a cascade of disarray. She was like a crazed marionette. About her hung a kind of poisoned joie de vivre. She was like a kite torn by thorns. She lit a cigarette and took some puffs in quick succession until she was hidden by smoke clouds.
Oscar found her mesmerizing and was intent on speaking to her. He walked up to her. She was peering through her hands again.
‘What do you see?’ he asked.
‘The planets. The stars. Supernovae,’ she muttered.
She spoke so quietly that Oscar had to strain to hear her. Her face
was close to his and he stared into green eyes whose pupils were abnormally dilated. She was indistinct, as if she could only be perceived through tracing paper.
‘The planets. The stars,’ she repeated in a colder, shriller voice. ‘Can you see that far?’
‘No, not really. I’d just like to go that far.’
She dissolved into sulfurous laughter, and for a moment it yoked back together the splintered fragments of her psyche, but as it died away she was a lost soul again.
She moved her lips together, as though she had just applied lipstick and was smoothing it over her mouth with a final flourish.
‘Do you like the way I look?’ she asked.
She smiled sweetly and once again for its duration she seemed fine. Someone catching her smile would have seen an expression of unbridled joy. Then the smile disappeared without trace and her face became a melancholic mask.
‘I think I’m going to leave this party. It’s such a bore.’
‘Where will you go?’ Oscar asked.
‘Oh, you, you and your questions! You do nothing but ask questions! Well, now I’m going to ask you one.’
‘By the time this party is over the universe will have expanded in all directions by many miles. How many would you say?’
‘I really couldn’t.’
‘A billion. A billion fucking miles. Did you ever think about that? Once? We’re on this tiny planet spinning away – and we think we’re so important – we think we’re the cats’ pyjamas. Well, we’re not. And I’m never going to see with my own eyes what’s out there. I’m going to die never having seen the edge of other galaxies, never having seen the final moments of a star’s life as it explodes. I’m going to die never having gone through a wormhole or travelled at the speed of light. Instead I have to be happy with all this….’ She pointed to the bacchanalian display around her.
‘It doesn’t interest me – this sludge doesn’t interest me. It’s such a fucking bore.’
She walked away with a motion both agitated and natural.
Then she was gone. When Oscar turned around to find someone else to talk to a woman in a leather skirt and beret was standing nearby, clutching a wine bottle.
‘You must be Oscar,’ she said.
Kirkus Review – “Sparkling, darkly humorous novel… A resplendent tale.”