Friday, April 10, 2015

Who's real?

The high bidder in an eBay auction that closes in two days will get his or her name used for a character in the next Michael Connelly novel, The Crossing. The auction benefits Trinity Cafe, which provides meals for the homeless and the hungry in Tampa. That sounds like a good cause, but anyone who has read Karen Joy Fowler's Wit's End may wonder if the prize is really such a good thing.

Fowler's 2009 novel tells of Rima, a young Ohio woman whose father, mother and brother have all died before their time. She goes to California to visit her godmother, Addison Early, the author of a popular series of mystery novels featuring detective Maxwell Lane. While there Rima decides to do a little investigating of her own to try to discover why the murderer in one of Addison's early novels  was named after her father and how that choice may have influenced her own life.

Wit's End turns out to be a study of  identity. Not only are real people characters in novels, but characters in novels, including Maxwell Lane, are regarded as real people. Technology enables users to take on multiple identities in blogs, fan sites, etc. Even Rima, herself named for the character in W.H. Hudson's Green Mansions, finds herself treated on the Web as a fictional character.

The novel sort of wanders between clever and confusing, perhaps appropos of its subject matter.

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