A film critic in a dystopian near future ruminates on life and art in the pages of his movie reviews.
This eccentric debut by Mattson offers a deviant take on the epistolary novel by couching its sad tale of regret in the pages of 80 movie reviews. Our esteemed author is professional nobody Noah Body, one of two film critics for a content aggregator dubbed the Central Hub Slaw, a publication with so few readers that Body treats his column as a kind of personal soapbox/therapy session. Body’s world is kind of a mess after some unknown blight locals call “the crisis,” with neighborhoods divided into safe zones and places like "Mini Aleppo," where Body lives; citizens “chipped” with GPS trackers; and travel taking place by suborbital “slingshot” capsules. The ghost that haunts Body’s story is his ex-wife, Isabel, who has recently run off with his best frenemy, James Osvald, a clerk and amateur filmmaker whose death Body imagines with glee. “Isabel who was my wife,” says Body. “I don’t see her well anymore. Her face is like the face of a coin. The mold deforms as years of minting pass.” On the domestic front, Body romances his therapist, Dr. Lisa, believes that Osvald has possessed his body, and plots the making of a complex period film called Altarpiece set in the Renaissance and backed by fellow critic Harris V. Jonson. The book’s humor is often wry, but subplots involving Jonson’s cheating wife and a thuggish vending machine tycoon trying to horn in on Body’s film are far less engaging than his aberrant rivalry with Osvald. The gimmick of the novel, the 80 phantasmagoric films that Body critiques, is dryly funny, but readers may tire of Body’s deadpan, aristocratic wit despite his outlandish surroundings.
A potentially hilarious cogitation on art and artists that fails to fully exploit its comic potential.