I HEAR VOICES by Paul Abelman


Email this review


The first US edition of an experimental novel originally published by the Olympia Press in Paris 30 years ago: the record of a garrulous, dreary psychic journey that a schizophrenic takes while confined to his bed. The manic tone is occasionally effective as satire, but mainly the book meanders self-indulgently to its anticlimax. ""How shall I know if there is any light?"" the narrator begins, and then proceeds to mix reality and fantasy in an attempt to transform himself into someone interesting. In his lucid moments, he lies in bed and contemplates whether to eat the breakfast egg that has been laid before him. There are passages that echo the ennui of Prufrock: ""And I am left lying helpless in the terrible anguish of helplessness. . . What if they never come? What if there is no one to come?"" Meanwhile, his older brother Arthur is the breadwinner (""Ah, younger brother, brave wanderer in dread regions. . ."") for whom the narrator imagines himself working: ""I'll try not to say anything weird, Arthur. . . But I don't see how I can help saying what's on my mind."" Arthur then examines ""a range of colored planes"" to make ""gigantic colored things out of them,"" while a giant of commerce tells the narrator that ""the great work progresses. All is planned. We are called converters of transformers. You see. . .we really work on the mind."" Dated stuff, in other words, though sometimes amusing. Still, even the narrator finally grows tired of his games: ""Devil voices! What do you want of me?"" And back to the quotidian: ""And then [find I am merely standing at the bleak pane watching the dawn of another suburban day. . ."" For Abelman, schizophrenia is psychodrama, mythic journey, and an exciting diversion from everydayness. But only infrequently does this shrill narrative suggest that such an illness is more than a literary conceit.

Pub Date: July 30th, 1990
Publisher: McPherson