Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Review of Louis B. Jones' Particles and Luck

"Say there is a very fortunate young newly wed, a theoretical physicist who has just purchased a deluxe semidetached unit...." Thus we are introduced to the main character of this witty book. He is "a groggy newcomer to California where even one's dearest old values are immediately refracted in the clean air. It turns out that he loves California, completely, amnesiacally."

A great deal goes on regarding the development of the sub-division and potential real estate scams or woes that haunt the imagination of the MC's neighbor and some might say this is a story of male bonding of an peculiar sort. Perhaps so, but I am more taken in by the fluent, plausible reflections on perception and reality, that test one's understanding of the meaning of meaning and the nature of nature. 

Neither his "improbably beautiful" wife nor the voluptuous "work-study assistant"--dismissed by a colleague as "Euro-trash"--participate in the plot. The one has hung the same two art posters wherever they had lived, "a Frida Kahlo self-portrait in traction and a Georgia O'Keefe anatomy of an iris incapable of fragrance." The other flirts with him and "a sweet remorse enters his life again"; they embrace and he discovers that "her hips adjust on a mysterious fulcrum," and "the air is different in the world of infidelity. It's clear."    

Indeed, there does not appear to be much of a plot, just writing that scintillates. "We are out of oatmeal" says improbably beautiful wife, fully knowing "that setting a nickel of brown syrup at the north, south, east and west quadrants of his oatmeal is the only way he can begin his day (a manipulative way to get him of of bed, by panicking him)."

The author deftly reveals more of the MC - "Before he sits anywhere, he has to lift the chair discreetly and tap each of its legs four times--upper left and right, then lower left and right--sixteen taps altogether."

We are treated to views into the MC's mind, such as - Turning on the faucet, he is entranced by the "perfectly smooth column of water which imprisons a filament of cold daylight. It's beautiful. It is impossible to imagine the whole thing could be time reversible--as if you could run the movie backward, provided you could also reverse particle charge and parity, and, in a mirror-reversed universe composed of anti-matter, watch the water swarm ... up the drain into a column and thrust itself up into the faucet--resulting in the identical apparition: a tube of water."

This is writing of a very high order. Going outdoors into the "cleansing air straightens his shoulders, makes him a few centimeters taller as the vertibrae unclench from the habitual spinal curve that characterized all the physicists [aligned] along the corridors like floating babies decaying." 

Read. Savor. 

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