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Mr. Eternity Hardcover – August 9, 2016
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"[A] sharp, inventive and compassionate novel . . . to be savored and heeded." - San Francisco Chronicle
"Mr. Thier’s dizzying time-travels will inevitably call to mind David Mitchell’s “Cloud Atlas,” and the danger of such books is that they tend to grow solemn and sanctimonious as they peer into the future. Happily, “Mr. Eternity” remains playful even as it relates catastrophe." - The Wall Street Journal
"With symbolism and analogy, surrealism and fantasy, Thier deftly reflects on and explores the human condition through ‘the lavender light and sweet scented dust of history.’ Erudite. Imaginative. A work to be read slowly and savored." - starred review, Kirkus Reviews
"Thier uses his deathless protagonist to chart the rise and fall of the American empire, and also those certainties--love, trade--that afflict every age . . . The moral imagination behind Defoe’s adventures rivals that of his namesake, begging comparison to the best literature has to offer." - Publishers Weekly
"Thier’s story lines entwine in Faulknerian brilliance . . . An enchanting, humorous, and visionary experience." - Booklist
"Only a writer as wickedly smart as Aaron Thier would think to write such a twisted and wild story about Florida and climate change and time-battered Daniel Defoe; only Aaron Thier could pull it all off with such aplomb and in such gleeful and spiny language. Mr. Eternity will be sizzling in my brain for a long time." - Lauren Groff, author of FATES AND FURIES
"The end of the world has never been so much fun as in Aaron Thier’s brilliant cavalcade of a novel. Careening back- and forward while staying peacefully centered, offering absurdities and heartbreaks in equal measure, Mr. Eternity is a moving exploration of our past, present, and future discombobulations." - Daniel Handler, author of WHY WE BROKE UP and WE ARE PIRATES
"The combination of vivid inventiveness at the sentence level, and wide-ranging vistas across the centuries, makes this novel a joy to read. Daniel Defoe himself would have loved this book." - Kim Stanley Robinson, author of THE MARS TRILOGY
"Aaron Thier's Mr. Eternity is shrewd, smart, and funny." - Elizabeth Kolbert, author of THE SIXTH EXTINCTION
"An absolutely phenomenal book, a comedy of everything. Astonishing." - Michael Hofmann, critic and author of WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?: SELECTED ESSAYS
"The books reminds me of a modern Candide . . . Read this book, it's awesome." - Ryan Holiday, "Reading Recommendation" Newsletter
"[A]n amazing work of staggering genius . . . Aaron Thier has reinvented the comic novel, reimagined the picaresque, written the Don Quixote for our time -- one that features not a mad idealist but a cynical wit, appropriate for this century and the ones (if any) to follow." - Betsy Burton, "Books & Beats," KUER
"Clever, smart, and brilliantly comic as it deals with our humanity, our resilient spirit, and the tremendous challenges that demand our cooperative attention . . . This genre-bending page-turner is a blast to read!" - Ed Conklin, Chaucer's Books, Santa Barbara, CA
"Thier likes messin' with historicity, as did Faulkner, and he uses crisp precise wit, as did (Donald) Barthelme, to mess with it." - Padgett Powell
About the Author
Aaron Thier is the author of the novels Mr. Eternity, a finalist for the 2017 Thurber Prize for American Humor, and The Ghost Apple, a semifinalist for the 2015 Thurber Prize. A regular contributor to The Nation and a graduate of Yale University and the MFA program at The University of Florida, Thier received a 2016 NEA Fellowship in Creative Writing. He lives in Great Barrington, MA.
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Bottom line: not the book for me.
UPDATE: A friend who had read this book as well and loved it convinced me to give it another try, and I'm glad I did. Typically, I read fiction only at night and non-fiction during the day. Usually I get a chapter or two in and that's it unless it grabs me. That works with most fiction, but not with this book - you have to read it in large chunks of pages or you will get lost fast.
The author tells the story through 5 different first person narrators across 1,000 years of history. One character in particular keeps popping up again and again, Daniel Defoe. It would be very difficult to describe this book other than to say that if you like unique stories, this is one that you will enjoy. The author tackles huge themes - love, climate change, religion, history, empires, and much more while telling the story of a man who just won't die. The end of the book is great and its well worth the read.
If you buy this book and sit down to read it, don't stop until you have read the first 50-60 pages. It's a unique experience and unlike anything you have read before - Recommended.
Mr. Eternity takes place in several time periods. The story that unfolds in each period is related by a different narrator, each with a distinct voice. Although a few characters seem to appear in more than one period, one man links the stories. He is known by several similar names, including Daniel Defoe. He may or may not be the same Daniel Defoe who wrote Robinson Crusoe, although he has been in many shipwrecks. Defoe searches through the centuries for the treasure of Anakitos and for his lost love, Anna Gloria. It is a quest worthy of Don Quixote, to whom the novel expressly alludes.
The story in 1560 is narrated by Maria, an indigenous woman in the Amazon rainforest. Maria is thought to be from El Dorado, the legendary city of gold. Daniel de Fo plans an expedition to find El Dorado, taking Maria along as translator. He is accompanied by Spanish soldiers on a mission to conquer the land for Spain. Maria describes her observations of the explorers, and her own adventures, with wry detachment.
The narrator in 1750, an old man using the name John Green, adds a good measure of humor to the stories he tells. The stories generally concern Dr. Dan, who practices a kind of fraudulent medicine on a plantation in the Bahamas.
Equally engaging is the narrator in 2200, who works as Old Dan’s helper in exploring life in the parts of the United States that aren’t underwater. A number of vague disasters caused half the world to end between 2016 and 2200. The narrator is enthralled by Old Dan’s stories of snow and antibiotics and “streamy media” other relics of the past that the narrator doesn’t quite understand.
In 2500, the narrator is a woman whose father has declared a five year remodernization plan for St. Louis, which will henceforth be known as the Reunited States. Her father makes Daniel Defoe the Vice-Secretary of Remodernization, since Defoe “carried in his mind the whole accumulated knowledge of history.” Unfortunately, that knowledge is a bit scrambled.
The narrator in 2016 is a former graduate student who travels with a friend to Key West on the pretext of making a documentary about an old sailor who lives in a boat that was blown inland during a storm. The batty old sailor, of course, is Defoe, a/k/a “the ancient mariner.”
Defoe’s claim to have lived “in a town called La Mancha” suggests that he has something in common with Don Quixote, particularly in the confusion of reality and fantasy. As he ages, Defoe’s memories become increasingly twisted, making his stories all the more amusing. He often describes killing Magellan in the Battle of Mactan. He asserts that there were there were herds of wild camels in St. Louis when the Lewis and Clark expedition began, but he is probably confusing those with the specially bred dairy camels that went wild in later years.
Mr. Eternity might be read as an allegory of aging (nobody remembers how they got old, Defoe says, it just happens). It can also be read as a parable about finding things of value when everything is falling apart (including sunsets and pineapples), of beginning a new life in defiance of a world that always seems to be ending. Or as a lesson in living as the person you are, rather than the person you are not. It might best be read as a story about stories, including love stories, a reminder that love can be confusing and difficult to recognize but that it is worth pursuing, even when mankind is standing on an eternal precipice of disaster.
But the book's not really about Dan, per se; it's about things that change, and things that stay the same (like Dan himself). In pre-civilization South American jungles or in a dystopian drought-addled future (circa 2500) where the king of the "Reunited States" resides in St. Louis, Dan stays steadfast, searching for something and someone.
About halfway through, I began to tire of the sprawl of it all. The plot bounces around from one time period to the next, and while Thier creatively changes the diction and dialect to reflect the relevant era, it's a bit jarring. The storylines seemed to hang in midair during the middle third of the book.
When I was about to give up hope, Thier pulled it out. The pace quickened again, and the seemingly disparate plot strands began to weave together. What remained at the end was a thoughtful and incisive treatise on what changes are wrought by time and technology—and what matters most. The final chapters absolutely crackle. Stick around till the end for this one.
Most recent customer reviews
For the unique voices Thier crafts, for the off-kilter humor, for an indulgent time traveling romp.Read more