O’Conor’s mind-bending debut drama takes place in a world of bizarre dreams, hallucinatory drugs, and people who suddenly disappear.
Roan is a professional statue who spends his days on the street as an immobile knight. Home life is a lonely existence. Longing for a woman who’s gone, he maintains a journal for troubling dreams filled with recurring images like beetles crawling everywhere. Meanwhile, Milo, a call center operator who frequents raves, is typically out of his head on a potent drug called tiptoe. He’s strained his relationship with his teacher wife, Ivy, due to his bouts of voluntary disappearances in a drunken or drugged stupor for days on end. Each of these characters comes to a startling revelation that may throw their world into a tailspin. The author’s purposefully vague novella is, like its characters, hazy; it’s sometimes difficult to decipher whether or not the story is taking place in reality. In Milo’s case, he’s typically inebriated, but even Ivy experiences these unsettling circumstances; her smart but disagreeable young student Carne inexplicably vanishes from her classroom. Despite its disturbing tone, the story isn’t entirely abstract. O’Conor keeps everything grounded with a clear sense of the environment, and seemingly unrelated characters turn out to have connections; Carne’s father, for one, is someone readers already know. O’Conor fills his pages with crisp, intelligent prose and simple but sublime imagery. Roan’s flat is a highlight: it houses a paper city populated by paper people, all designed by Roan using folded pieces of numerous love letters. The sketchy plot will have readers demanding answers to questions, including an implication that tiptoe is much more than a drug. Not surprisingly, the inconclusive ending is open to interpretation. A more defined resolution might have been more shocking.
Discombobulating and hypnotic, like a literary sedative that may produce more than one habitual reader.