Wednesday 8 July 2015

The Missing Body Parts of Mr Doherty by Luke Kondor

Every day Paddy Doherty wakes up to find another body part missing. Before he disappears completely, he wants to leave something of value in the world - a detailed guide on finding love.
 Amazon description

In Gogol's short story the main character loses a nose, in Luke Kondor's short story (some 50 pages long) the losses start with an arm and just carry on happening. Kondor's book is therefore in the tradition of surreal European magic realism, that includes Gogol, Kafka and Bulgakov.

The story is narrated in the first-person by Paddy Doherty himself. He proves to be a witty and it turns out a none-too-reliable narrator.  His guide to the sixteen ways to a girl's heart turns into an account of his life and relationships, which it emerges haven't been very successful. Doherty's accounts are laugh-out-loud amusing at time, his narration has a habit of subverting itself when it is getting too serious:

I couldn't tell you exactly what happened, but I felt like I experienced what some people refer to as the Aleph - a point where everything, the whole universe is contained - or it could've been the dodgy falafel I'd eaten. 

This is just one example from the book of how Kondor's writing works on several levels. The comment about the Aleph, I am sure, references the short story by Coehlo. And how about this:

And then I saw a man in the street doing a handstand, he reminded me of an old friend. I tried to applaud him, because I was clapping with one hand - the right one. 

The image of the man doing a handstand returns late on in the story by the way. 

So why is Paddy disappearing piece by piece? The doctor has a theory: that Paddy has never given himself to something completely, so his body is giving itself with or without his permission. Maybe the answer is to give heart to someone or something. Or maybe the theory is bullshit, as Paddy says to the medic. I hope it isn't.

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