9780312349257 / 0312349254

The Memory Artists


Publisher:St. Martin's Griffin



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About the book:

Set in Montreal, The Memory Artists is the highly inventive story of four friends, a mother, and a doctor. Noel, who, like Liszt and Rimbaud, has synaesthesia: he sees sounds as colors. He also has a prodigious and acute memory. Noel's mother has Alzheimer's, and Noel is seeking a cure in his basement laboratory with the help of his friends: handsome, debauched Norval; childlike, Internet addict JJ; and Samira, an Arabic-Canadian former actress. As the cynical Norval works his way through an alphabet of lovers (as a performance art piece), Samira becomes the "S" in his project, causing a subtle conflict with Noel, who, secretly, is madly in love with her. Standing in the background of the story like a puppet master is Dr. Vorta, a neuropsychologist who is studying Noel's malady.

Bursting with vitality, ingenious and darkly spangled with a sometimes-grim humour, the novel's fragmentary style, which includes selections from several characters' diaries, reflects the skipping-stone mind of a synaesthete. The writing is relentlessly witty and a constant delight. Norval extracts himself from a sleeping woman's limbs with "diamond-cutter caution." JJ has the "teapot cheeks" of youth and "a preliminary scenario for a goatee." The story is filled with detailed lore on chemistry, pharmacology, and herbology as Noel finds hints in the ancient Arabic book, A Thousand and One Nights, in his hunt for a cure to memory loss. In a lovely, touching denouement, Noel discovers the secret buried in his "pent heart." For those who like their fiction quirky and energetic, this novel is highly recommended. --Mark Frutkin

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