Friday 18 August 2017

Nobody is Ever Missing by Catherine Lacey  {Reviewed by THOMAS}
For reasons she is never quite able to formulate, Elyria flees her marriage and New York and runs away to New Zealand, where she wanders about, seemingly incapable of either achieving or escaping personhood (the closest she achieves to a self-nullifying stability is when working in the garden of an aging poet, who eventually frees himself of her with the necessarily blunt observation, “You are a sad person, and I’m not a person who can tolerate other people’s sadness”). Elyria is caught in a tourniquet of self-observation which borders at times on the hysterical (perhaps the ultimate result of all self-observation). She thinks back to the early period of life with the person who became with her husband, when “I was not an observer of myself, but a be-er of myself, a person who just was instead of a person who was almost”, but we know that this relationship, with a man Elyria met because he was the last person her sister talked to before her suicide, was both formed and deformed by a trauma Elyria could not face, a trauma which the relationship is unable to either heal or address. Although Elyria recognises she has a problem with authenticity (“A rational person would feel upset instead of just knowing she was upset.”), this appears to be incurable, existential, as she is manifestly incapable of relaxing the vigilance that keeps her ‘inner wildebeests’ hidden and thus prevents her escape into authenticity: “I was not a person but just some evidence of myself”. Only at the end of the book, when she has returned and been rejected by her husband and is walking through New York in torrential rain, does she perhaps (but only perhaps) exhibit an awareness of her surroundings that is not distorted by self-obsession, but this clarity (possibly fleeting, possibly terminal) is predicated on a relinquishment that is uncertain in its implications.

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