Veteran novelist Gomez (Our Noise, 1995; Geniuses of Crack, 1997; etc) makes his iPad fiction debut with a canny study of split personalities, family and roads not taken.
Smart book apps blend immersion and interruption, breaking up linear narrative but emphasizing interactivity. Gomez’s clever novel does both well. Its three narrators are all named Jeff Gomez, but each is at a different station in early middle age: One lives in Hoboken, with a marriage on the rocks; a second is happily married in nearby Montclair and raising a son; and a third is recently divorced and starting over in Manhattan. The book’s three sections are static, but readers have the option of jumbling the three chapters within them, choosing which Jeff to read about first, second and third. (Readers can also choose to follow one narrator alone.) As each Gomez becomes aware of the others, they learn there’s a whole world of people with multiple doppelgangers and even a social media site to serve them (the app links to a mockup). The faux memoir style and mood of absurdity and coincidence come straight out of Paul Auster—as the happy-husband Jeff points out—but Gomez’s storytelling is more controlled than Auster’s willful ramblings. His narrative gives an entertainingly earthbound twist to the old sci-fi question of how much our early choices transform lives. (One of the Jeffs goes so far as to hunt down his teenage self in California.) Its closing pages feel cool and domesticated considering the audacity of the setup, but Gomez’s writing is engaging and watertight throughout. The presentation is similarly clean: Tapping a narrow, light blue strip, much like a sewn-in bookmark, takes readers from the book to the menu, and there’s an option to play unobtrusive electronic music in the background.
A savvy, thoughtful and well-made app both in its writing and its presentation.