Mac's problem

Enrique Vila-Matas, 1948-

Book - 2019

Mac is currently unemployed and lives on his wife's earnings from her furniture restoration business. An avid reader, he decides at the age of sixty to keep a diary. Mac's wife, Carmen, a dyslexic born of dyslexic parents, thinks he is simply wasting his time and risking sliding further into depression--but Mac persists, and is determined that this diary will not turn into a novel. However, one day, he has a chance encounter with a near neighbor, a highly successful author who once wro...te a collection of enigmatic, willfully obscure stories. Mac decides that, while he will not write his own stories, he will read, revise, and improve his neighbor's, which are mostly narrated by a ventriloquist who has lost the ability to speak in different voices. As Mac embarks on this task, he finds that the stories have a strange way of imitating life. Or is life imitating the stories? As the novel progresses, Mac becomes stranger and more adrift from reality, and both he and we become ever more immersed in literature: a literature haunted by death, but alive with the sheer pleasure of writing.

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FICTION/Vila-Matas, Enrique
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Subjects
Genres
Domestic fiction
Published
New York : New Directions Books 2019.
Language
English
Spanish
Item Description
"A New Directions paperbook original" -- title page.
Physical Description
211 pages ; 21 cm
ISBN
9780811227322
0811227324
Main Author
Enrique Vila-Matas, 1948- (author)
Other Authors
Margaret Jull Costa (translator), Sophie (Sophie Elizabeth) Hughes, 1986-
Review by Publishers Weekly Reviews

In this impressive novel, Vila-Matas (Bartleby & Co.) endearingly chronicles the blundering writing exploits of Mac, a 60-something Barcelona man at the end of his career. Reeling from his failure in his family's construction company, Mac avoids contemplating his financial status and instead embarks on a writing project. Initially, Mac endeavors to write a memoir, but after a conversation with his well-known neighbor, the writer Andrea Sanchez, Mac decides to secretly rewrite Sanchez's story collection and address its problems (as perceived by Sanchez). As he begins writing, it becomes clear that the project highlights the displacement Mac feels within his own family, with his children grown and his wife, Carmen, occupied with her own company. As Mac reads Sanchez's work, he finds a story that he is sure was written years ago about Carmen. That discovery draws him into a growing state of consuming suspicion that Carmen and Sanchez are involved, which undermines his daily life as he obsessively tries to learn more about Sanchez, interrogates people close to him, begins living out the stories, and starts to have trouble distinguishing reality from fiction. Vila-Matas's bouncy prose is the highlight of this lively ride through a writer's mind. He winningly depicts a man embroiled in regret and the places that it takes him. (Apr.) Copyright 2019 Publishers Weekly.

Review by Publisher Summary 1

Mac is currently unemployed and lives on his wife’s earnings. An avid reader, he decides at the age of sixty to keep a diary. Mac’s wife, a dyslexic, thinks he is simply wasting his time and risking sliding further into depression—but Mac persists, and is determined that this diary won't turn into a novel. However, one day, he has a chance encounter with a neighbor, a successful author of a collection of enigmatic, willfully obscure stories. Mac decides that he will read, revise, and improve his neighbor’s stories, which are mostly narrated by a ventriloquist who has lost the ability to speak in different voices. As Mac embarks on this task, he finds that the stories have a strange way of imitating life. Or is life imitating the stories? As the novel progresses, Mac becomes more adrift from reality, and both he and we become ever more immersed in literature: a literature haunted by death, but alive with the sheer pleasure of writing.

Review by Publisher Summary 2

Enrique Vila-Matas’s new novel is perhaps his greatest: “playful and funny and among the best Spanish novelists” (Colm Tóibín)