Number of pages: 244
The title of this novel is taken from Back to the Future, a movie that the book’s narrator is obsessed with and references constantly; the relevance being that it is the exact time that the lightning strike occurs in the film’s climactic scene.
The book’s narrator is a man who appears have a major obsessive compulsive disorder, and goes into enormous levels of detail about everything. This will include references the precise time when he does something, and describing in meticulous detail what materials an object he is holding is made from. He appears to have imaginary conversations at times.
The most curious thing I found about this book though, was that the narrator is never mentioned by name; my guess was always that he was a fictionalised version of the book’s author, Ben Lerner.
The main plot involves the narrator being asked by his friend Alex if he will donate sperm so that she can become pregnant, and tells of the events that lead up to him donating his sperm. However, this is more a novel about his life, because it goes off on a lot of tangents and has many sub-plots that have nothing to do with this.
This was quite a hard book, for a couple of reasons.
First off, there was the language used, because the narrator would often use a phrase that was very long-winded, or he’d use a long word to describe something. The narrative is definitely not straightforward and at times reminded me of the language used in parts of “I Love Dick”, which I also read recently.
Secondly, the book is very idiosyncratic. While it is written mainly in the first person, the whole second chapter is written in the third person; there were a couple of brief moments later on where this happened too and even a section near the end written in the future tense regarding what the narrator expects to happen on a bus journey. At times, the narrative will include a long story-within-a-story told to the narrator by one of the side characters. As I got towards the end, it occurred to me that this book wasn’t so much as about the central character as it was all about the people around him.
Despite what I’ve said, I ended up enjoying this book; the writing style was very humourous, and I found it compelling and kept wanting to know what would happen next.
This doesn’t feel like a conventional novel at all, but it is very well worth trying.
Next book: Great Northern? (Arthur Ransome)