When I think of amnesia fiction, I think of movies like Eternal
Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and
Memento, and books by W. G. Sebald and Laird
Hunt. The amnesia themes range from those that feature total forgetting to
those that feature some kind of partial forgetting or just general forgetful
untrustworthiness on the part of the narrator --- where the reader may, for
example, actually recognize things that the narrator has forgotten.
Gun, with Occasional Music is a ridiculous
book. Who can read about a fistfight between a kangaroo and a private
investigator and not be a little perplexed? Not to mention the bar full of
overgrown babies with big heads, in more ways than one.
The characters in the book take drugs. They take drugs largely in order to
forget things. So, like in Eternal Sunshine,
erasing memories is a service of which people happily avail themselves. A more
apt comparison is to the characters in Philip K. Dick's The
Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, who take take drugs in
order to enhance their ability to play with dolls, and to escape the
inhospitableness of their space colony environment.
Fans of The Big Lebowski, Who
Framed Roger Rabbit?, Dirk Gently's Holistic
Detective Agency and all of the many other plays on detective
fiction --- I'd even throw in The Impossibly
--- should check this one out as well. They way the plot is driven is closest
to Lebowski. The detective kind of stumbles
around through the various mysteries he takes on, and the book culminates in a
nice, "She kidnapped herself, Dude!" kind of moment.
Lethem's quirky one-liners and outrageous metaphor (ala Tom Robbins) provide an
independent source of entertainment.
He reached into his jacket and a little black gun appeared in his paw. He
held it casually, the way you hold a candy bar or a cake of soap. Only this
gun wasn't going to make anyone clean.
So bad it's good, you know? How about this one, regarding withdrawal from the
I could feel my bloodstream panhandling my fat reserves for whatever last
traces of the vital addictol they had stored away, and I could feel my fat
cells turning out their pockets and saying sorry pal, there's nothing left.
One more, for the road.
What's more, there was rain in my collar and I needed a sandwich. The clouds
were still bunched up in the sky like a gang on a street corner, and it
looked to me like they had the sun pretty effectively intimidated.
In keeping with a primary theme, I've already forgotten the plot. It's
complicated, with "a lot of ins, a lot of outs". You don't really have to keep
track to enjoy the book. It's the descriptive riffs and the dialog that make
this a worthwhile read.