Strange Bodies is strange indeed. It’s some bizarre stew of Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, and Grendel. At the outset, the reader is introduced to Nicholas Slopen, a man who insists he is a man who has already died. He is a guest of a local asylum and tells what he remembers of his life to his psychiatrist. Flash back to a few months prior, when our hero was the foremost expert on Samuel Johnson. He’s been asked to authenticate (or debunk) newfound letters written by Johnson. After a number of awkward research sessions, Slopen realizes this is no ordinary consultation. Soon, his reality is altered forever. From within the asylum walls, he ruminates:
I’ve tried to tell the truth since the moment I got here, but the baroque involutions, the doublings and false corridors of my story have clearly done me no favors with the chumps who run this place, even to me, as I relive it, it resembles some half-understood allegory — a form that I loathe. I know it partakes of the comic — necessarily: the conventions of genre are not shared by the true state of sublunary nature — but it is not funny. ~Pg. 78
The book takes a number of bizarre turns from there and attempts to remain darkly comic. I do wish the main thread had followed through more consistently. It would have raised the level of the irony for me as a reader.
Many thanks to FSG for the review copy.
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux (February 4, 2014)
Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 5.8 x 1.1 inches