On September 5, 2003, illusionist David Blaine entered a small Perspex box adjacent to London's Thames River and began starving himself. Forty-four days later, on October 19, he left the box, fifty pounds lighter. That much, at least, is clear. And the rest? The crowds? The chaos? The hype? The rage? The fights? The lust? The filth? The bullshit? The hypocrisy?
With her fresh, confident sophomore novel (after Behindlings), Barker offers a meditation on illusionist David Blaine's feat of self-starvation--44 days spent suspended in a clear box above the Thames River. Analytical narrator Adie, a prickly, literate young man who works in an office overlooking the Blaine spectacle, carefully dissects the psychology of both Blaine and the hordes of onlookers who feed him attention as he slowly starves. Meanwhile, Adie's own drama unfolds, set off by a strange encounter with Aphra, a perplexing girl with a freakish sense of smell and a fetish for vintage shoes who spends her nights on the riverbank watching Blaine sleep. As Adie's involvement with Aphra grows more complicated, his initially cynical interest in Blaine becomes more obsessive. "Perhaps... this loopy illusionist has tapped into something.... A fury. A disillusionment," Adie muses, ruminating on the vileness and beauty that Blaine's presence has brought out among Brits. Despite Adie's determined disdain for the man, the unwelcome "Hunger Artist" leads him to wonder if "Some things are beyond the reach of art. Some words are meaningful beyond understanding." Offbeat and authentic, intellectual and accessible, Barker's is an original voice. (June)
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June 12, 2005
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