With quiet humor and wisdom, A Floating Life charts its course among images that surprise and disorient, such as a job interview in a steam room with a one-eyed, seven-foot-tall chef, a midnight intrusion of bears, and the narrator’s breast feeding of the baby he has birthed.
From Amazon Description
I often read blogs, in which writers give advice to other writers. Some of the advice is good, some of it obvious and some of it suggests the writer has not read many books. One example of the latter sort of advice is “Don’t write about dreams.” Clearly that person has not read Lewis Carroll. And nor have s/he read Tad Crawford’s A Floating Life.
Like Alice in Wonderland the whole of Crawford’s book has a dreamlike quality. There are dreams in the book, but which sections are the central character’s dreams and which not is not always clear. As a bear says at one point “I spent a lot of time imagining who the dreams might belong to. Finally, I thought of you.”
Yes I did say “bear”. During the course of the book the narrator meets with a family of bears who live under Central Park, a litigious dachsund, Numun, an estate agent who offers him a golden cage in a building which is being built downwards, a World War II Japanese soldier and a modern Charon and Cerberus (and more as the Amazon description makes clear). As magic realism goes this is definitely on the magical/surrealist side. The dreams are edgy and often disturbing. There were times when I was reminded of the short stories of Karen Heuler.
The book does have realist elements. The narrator seems to be living a normal life working in marketing with a wife who is fed up with the fact that he hasn’t matured and who has decided to leave him. But even these elements are dealt with in a dreamlike way – he has a conversation with his wife at a party without recognizing her or apparently she him. The most realistic element is perhaps Pecheur and his model shop A Floating Life. The fantastic maritime scenes Pecheur displays are explained as computer programmed, engineered, modelled, although I doubt such programming is possible in real life. But Pecheur's displays have significance for the dreams and magic that follow.
I enjoyed this unusual book. It is strewn with symbolism - Jung would have had a field day. On writing this review I realise that I really ought to read it again to see what more I can find.