This eerie novella in stories recalls Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone.
After a terrible fight with his girlfriend, a man finds himself alone in a dark, rainy city. Lost and uncertain of how long he has been walking, he stops at a diner where he’s led by a mysterious Chinese woman to a door that opens to other colorful realities and other lives that eventually illuminate his own. In this picaresque tale, Paul’s travels take him through fantastic episodes where he inhabits the lives of both women and men as they confront surreal dilemmas. As Tomas, in the chapter “Gray,” he finds himself trapped outside a city’s walls, in a world dark as a closed coffin, unable to regain entrance to the illuminated town, whose citizens have locked him out. In “Gauze,” he assumes Lorna’s consciousness, as she dreams repeatedly of bricks suspended in the air, until her waking life becomes composed of those same gauzy bricks. As Randal, in “Yellow,” we enter the mind of an antique dealer who despises his unbeautiful life and angrily kills the family cat, only to find himself imprisoned each night in an armchair, where—like Prometheus—he is eviscerated nightly. Between episodes, we return to Paul and his Chinese guide, in shifting locales: a room, an office. The book’s short chapters often work as psychological allegory, suggesting, for example, the salvific nature of art in the face of banal routine. But the adventurous plots are not matched by equally compelling prose, which remains abstract and clichéd: “He deserved a wife that was a model, trim and fit with a flair for decorating and entertaining, not this frowzy, blue-collar worker’s daughter with a spreading ass. And his children should be sports champions, tall, blond with square chins and stoic eyes, not these gawky brats.” Although names and dilemmas change, characters remain generic, so one feels less brought into lives than into ideas, dressed lightly as fiction.
Entertaining allegories that are closer kin to TV drama than literature in their superficial treatment of character and conflict.