Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Invisible, by Hugues De Montalembert

I was all ready to review Manhood for Amateurs today but got sidetracked last night. While the rest of my household was watching American Idol, I picked up Invisible, a disturbing and haunting memoir. This is not a story in the traditional plot-driven sense. This slim book, under 150 pages, reads almost like poetry.

In 1978, the author, who was an artist, was attacked in his home. One of his assailants threw paint thinner in his eyes and within a day he was blind. The author's relationship to himself and to the rest of the world -- which had been interpreted for the most part visually -- suddenly had to be reconfigured. Through bits of story and image, we see how the author's awareness of reality slowly expands despite (or because of?) his blindness.

I felt squirmy and uncomfortable reading Invisible. It reminded me of the discomfort we feel around mourners, as if by witnessing their grief, our own hidden grief can be pulled up to the surface. Both in his memoir and in his own life the author achieves art's mission: to illuminate a deeper reality. It was not an easy book, but I am glad I read it.

Tomorrow, something lighter: Chabon's Manhood for Amateurs....

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