Thursday, June 23, 2011

The Story Within the Story

Book Review: My Favorite Band Does Not Exist by Robert T. Jeschonek

Deity's Syndrome: "Multisystemic symptoms resulting from a psychosomatic manifestation of the unshakable fear that the patient is a character in a novel".

That mouthful of psychological jargon is the diagnosis for the character of Ideal Deity in Robert T. Jeschonek's My Favorite Band Does Not Exist. It also sets the stage for a wild allegorical ride through philosophical thought from the Greeks to modern Western philosophy.

The characters we meet are always more than they seem. Symbolism is rife in every name, occupation, and physical description. Janus, two-faced god of beginnings and transitions makes an early appearance, albeit in female form, and is there to guide Ideal along the path from existential solipism, through Cartesian dualism, and finally to nondualist enlightenment. Along the way we meet Descartes' "evil genius" and a host of mythological and religious figures as friends, foes, or fellow travelers. All of this is set in the current world of online music, Twitter, and the Internet - well, except where it moves into a different reality.

Jeschonek does a great job of matching the actual format of the book to the story. You know when you are reading the book within the book because, well it's a book within the book! The language and concepts are accessible; this is not a philosophy text full of 6 syllable words. As the novel moves towards its closing, the story does gather speed, flipping through reality like a deck of cards in Alice in Wonderland, and it can be a little hard for the reader to keep up.

The question in the back of my mind throughout this fast-moving book was, "Would a teenager like this?" The book is targeted to ages 12 and up (grades 7+), and some of the vocabulary and plot twists are more appropriate for the higher end of that range. I can see this being used in an English classroom to teach metaphors and symbolism; motivated students would have a field day deciphering names and finding hidden symbology. But would they read it for fun? I'm just not sure. I definitely know some kids who would love this - and some who would glaze over a few pages into it.

That being said, if you know a young adult that likes a story with a little more story to it, and enjoys sci-fi/fantasy, I heartily recommend My Favorite Band.