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Billy Moon: A Novel Hardcover – August 27, 2013
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“Lain proves himself adept at dramatizing such decidedly non-whimsical matters as autism, parent-child estrangement, and the quest for individual identity amidst political upheaval.” ―James Morrow, author of The Last Witchfinder
“The mark of great writing is how it seeps into your everyday life without you even noticing and becomes part of your reality. This book is all about that spooky, enchanted place between fictions and worlds, and it will seep into your reality too.” ―McKenzie Wark, author of A Hacker Manifesto
“Doug Lain's genius is somehow both uniquely American and international in flavor--alienated, obsessive, strange and touching all at the same time. The surreal emotional landscapes he explores in Billy Moon are simply astonishing.” ―M.K .Hobson, author of the Nebula Award finalist novel The Native Star
“Douglas Lain has a great brain. I am hugely impressed with his prospects...” ―Jonathan Lethem, New York Times bestselling author
“I don't know anyone else doing quite what Lain is doing; fascinating work, moving, strikingly honest, powerful.” ―Locus
“Doug Lain's Billy Moon is postmodern SF, powering past mere science and into a cubist world of strange. It's a mash-up of Phil Dick, Francoise Sagan, and Winnie the Pooh, with a jaded Christopher Robin at the heart of the 1968 Paris student revolution. Billy Moon is moving and profound, with a radically evanescent style. Just the thing for our new century.” ―Rudy Rucker, author of the WARE Tetralogy
“Billy Moon is a beautifully told story gathering within its pages the original Christopher Robin, the Paris strikes of May 1968, the power of dreams, Guy DeBord and children's toys. In Mr. Lain's hands this unexpected and truly remarkable combination works in ways I'd not have imagined. Highly recommended!” ―Jack Womack, author of Elvissey
“Doug Lain melts reality into this compelling, complex novel of the year the political got personal and the personal got weird. 1968 is today. Read it.” ―Eileen Gunn, Nebula award-winning author
“Douglas Lain makes his desires literature. Billy Moon whips the Spectacle into amusing shapes, shaking out cultural icons, political renegades, philosophical bomb throwers, and time-tripping love bandits. In a world ruled by lies, fiction is a basic truth. What better time to turn words into revolution?” ―Dennis Perrin, author of Savage Mules: The Democrats and Endless War and Mister Mike: The Man Who Made Comedy Dangerous
About the Author
DOUGLAS LAIN's short fiction has appeared in many magazines and journals here and abroad. Since 2009, he has produced the weekly podcast Diet Soap, interviewing a wide range of fascinating, engaging people with insights for the new millennium: philosophers, mystics, economists, and a diverse group of fiction writers. He lives in Portland, Oregon, with his wife and children.
Top customer reviews
In Part 1, we are introduced to Christopher Robin, his wife, Abby, and his autistic son, Daniel (in truth, Christopher had a daughter with cerebral palsy). The title Billy Moon comes from Christopher's childhood nickname. As an adult, he owns a minor bookstore in Dartmouth, England, but he is loathe to sell Winnie-the Pooh-books. As a child, he was mercilessly teased about being Christopher Robin. He desperately seeks liberation from the fake Christopher Robin that his father created. In 1959, he is 38, and at a crossroads of purpose. He takes long walks and straddles the line between reality and fantasy, where, for example, a stuffed cat becomes animate. In 1961, a poster mysteriously appears in his store, with Pooh as a symbol of protest against the French authorities, of a Paris uprising six years into the future, 1968. Between the poster and a letter from a Parisian college student named Gerrard Hand, Christopher is compelled to take his family on a trip to Paris. He enters an unreal world of time and space, where the ground beneath his feet has turned to a pool of mud. (What a perfect metaphor for the historic Paris or "Lutetia--"city of mud" of ancient civilization.)
When Gerrard was ten-years-old, his father told him, I'm working on reality, but the world won't meet me halfway." Gerrard, who has a brilliant imagination, discovered that "in dreams, the past is hidden inside the present."
All this wordplay from Portland Author Douglas Lain helped me dissolve the concrete world of dimensions. As Abby says, "Sometimes in order to be realistic you have to accept the impossible." And that is what happens inside this novel. While keeping us fastened to Christopher Robin, Gerrard, and Gerrard's girlfriend, Natalie, as well as other peripheral characters, the reader is taken on a journey of juxtapositions and metaphors that lead us to a place where poetry is perilous and the imaginary is real.
In Part 2, Gerrard and Natalie lead Christopher to the Situationist movement in Paris, a (failed) revolution against advanced capitalism, made up of artists and intellectuals (such as Guy Debord, who is a also a character in the novel) who believed that social alienation and commodity fixation had degraded everyday lives. Instead of responding to directly felt experience, individual expression was now encumbered by a desire for objects, or objects that replace legitimate action and interaction with each other. The revolutionaries wanted to create moments of authentic experience, to construct situations that reawakened our genuine desires. Lain was also alluding to today's Occupy movement.
I could point out all the political, social, and philosophical aspects of the text, but the aspect of the narrative that really stands out is the coming-of-age of these characters. Natalie tries to live "authentically" by acting out the life of Cécile in Françoise Sagan's Bonjour Trisstesse and following the tenets of Debord, who believed that a real revolution had to be total. Gerrard's fate becomes linked to Christopher Robin's, and both have issues with their parents to muddle through. But, events occur that are often impenetrable in the real world. But--and this is what struck me about Lain--it stops mattering! He pulls us into his magical realism by always anchoring his characters emotionally, so that the reader is connected to each of their secret histories. And a bear. Yes, there's a bear, and a Paris zoo.
"History has chosen us. Not the grand history of kings, and of wars, or of dates in textbooks, but rather our own secret histories. The history of our childhood, and our grandparents' childhoods, that's what has chosen us. History has chosen us, chosen us to take part in the creation of memories out of the present."
Part 3 is the most opaque, on the surface. I wonder if Christopher Robin's degree in mathematics, and his father's, may have something to do with Lain's chapters of "probability." So, open the book, let go, follow Lain labyrinth's, and be enchanted by the power of dreams and memories, in and out of time, and some that exist in our imagination. Just imagine.
I had the constant feeling that I was missing something while reading BILLY MOON, but I also had the suspicion that this feeling was what the author intended me to feel. The themes of the book make sense, the prose is lyrical and flows beautifully, the magical realism is expertly done - sometimes delighting, but often frightening. If you're expecting a linear story where you know exactly what's going on, or even which reality you're on... this is not the book for you. I was left with a whole bunch of confusion at the end, but even though I was confused, at no point did I actually want to stop reading the book.
I wasn't quite sure whether I should even attempt a review of BILLY MOON, since I don't really have a clear verdict on it. I hope that posting my honest reaction qualifies, even if it's not in the traditional review format. I did read other reviews, and they seem universally glowing (I was tempted to write a similarly glowing one myself rather than admit to not quite getting everything in it), so I'd definitely recommend giving it a shot!
I plan to do a reread in a few months to see if I can get more from it, though, and I'll update this review when I do!
"Christopher had received scores of fan letters since he's opened the bookshop. Six-year-olds wrote him to ask about his bear. Adults who'd read his father's books when they were young wrote to ask the same questions. Everyone wanted pretty much the same thing, and Christopher couldn't give any answers. He didn't know how to find the Hundred Acre Wood, and he didn't know where childhood went to over the years, or why it was so difficult to feel real joy. He threw almost all of the letters away because they weren't for him at all, but were rally addressed to a boy Christopher's father had made up."
Gerrard Hand was a young revolutionary student in Paris. In 1968, he writes to Chris (as Christopher chose to be named) and asked him to come to France. Chris isn't sure why, but makes the journey. He arrives just in time to be caught up in the student revolution of 1968, where schools, factories and government offices are taken over by the students, who wish to create a more liberated world. Chris gets caught up in the revolution, almost by accident, and it allows him to define the difference between reality and expectation in his own life.
This is Douglas Lain's debut novel, and readers will find it to be an exploration of the world and how we perceive it. It explores the dichotomy between dreaming and lucidity, between liberation and the confines of expectations, between being free or just thinking about it. This book is recommended for readers of speculative fiction.
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I was let down though.
As I read, I often got frustrated.Read more