IBID: A LIFE by Mark Dunn


A Novel in Footnotes
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Having an extra leg doesn’t mean you can’t have a full life.

When author Dunn (the fictional one, not the real one who wrote Ella Minnow Pea, 2001) sent the only manuscript copy of his new novel to the editor at MacAdam/Cage, the editor promptly destroyed it (accidentally, in her bath), leaving no choice but to publish the end matter as a book in its own right. This rather daunting idea is made more palatable by the fact that Dunn is not only rather garrulous in his notes, but that his subject, the fictional life of three-legged Jonathan Blashette, is dramatic enough to be told easily in the margins. To nobody’s surprise, the Arkansas-born Blashette finds work early in life as a circus freak, with Thaddeus Grund and his Traveling Circus and Wild West Show. It’s a marginal existence, being stuck in a second-rate carnival, and three-legged Blashette is made for bigger things. After a stint in WWI, Blashette has a revolutionary idea: men’s underarm deodorant. His company, Dandy-de-odor-o, Inc., is bankrolled by J.P. Morgan, whom Blashette met in his circus days (a long story), just one of the many famous people Blashette would claim to have met in his life. There was the cab ride with the man who would become Rudolph Valentino, and drinks with the likes of Leni Riefenstahl, Woody Guthrie, and Betty Ford. Dunn’s tale is a sort of anti–E.L. Doctorow one: historical fiction of a sort, covering the 1880s through the 1960s, but refreshingly non-epic, reveling in odd comic details (like the unimpressive Bowery Hotel “Round Table” that Blashette belonged to, sad imitation of the Algonquin) and non sequiturs of the David Foster Wallace school.

Humorous, quick like the wind: fiction that peers at an imaginary life never head-on but through a multitude of sideways glances, peeking through fingers and intimating stranger things than can be imagined in the light of day.

Pub Date: March 8th, 2004
ISBN: 1-931561-65-6
Page count: 280pp
Publisher: MacAdam/Cage
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2004


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