Today is May 25th, also known as Towel Day, or the day where you celebrate the life and work of Douglas Adams. I am not participating; I am spending the day helping people learn to grow plants in a desert. I would rather be carrying a towel. But then this happened at lunch:
Color me happy.
In honor, or perhaps in a fortuitous coincidence, I am reviewing a novel that is mildly reminiscent of Douglas Adams (if he met and was influenced by one very libidinous Philip Roth). For your reading pleasure, I am recommending The Teleportation Accident. Consider this award worthy description that I cannot take credit for: ‘A historical novel that doesn’t know what year it is; a noir novel that turns all the lights on; a romance novel that arrives drunk to dinner; a science fiction novel that can’t remember what ‘isotope’ means; a stunningly inventive, exceptionally funny, dangerously unsteady and (largely) coherent novel about sex, violence, space, time, and how the best way to deal with history is to ignore it.’
It’s entirely true, as part noir, part romance, part endless quest for sex, Ned Bauman’s The Teleportation Accident is a raucous, irreverent look at why a handsome, clever, yet modest stage designer simply can’t get laid. Obviously it’s through no fault of his own. Please note that the glowing description is self-given. At the heart of the novel is the simplest of tropes: boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy chases girl. Peripherally, the mundane trope of solving a mysterious death is also utilized, as well as the search for a lost, beloved object. That is where the mundane simplicity ends.
Beginning in 1931 Germany, Egon Loeser meets Adele Hitler, of no relation to the other prominent A. Hitler. Adele has sex with nearly everyone in Berlin, everyone that is, except Egon. Naturally, he falls in love. She moves on to Paris, to have sex with everyone there, and then to Los Angelos, to find wealthier people to have sex with. Meanwhile, Loeser still cannot get laid and there’s no cocaine to be had. His sexual frustration is beyond comprehension.
At this point he couldn’t quantify his sexual frustration any more than he could weigh his own brain… It was too much a part of him. Unlike his penis, which he now regarded as a sort of ungrateful hitchhiker, a fatuous vestigium.
Due to his unrequited pining, he follows Adele to Paris. There he pretends to be a quack doctor who promises youth by sewing monkey glands on the necks of women (as a replacement, Loeser uses lychee nuts). In Los Angeles, he meets his favorite writer and his strange partner. He also befriends a billionaire. While he attempts to discover whether his hero, the 17th century set designer Adriano Lavicini, was killed by making a deal with a devil, he’s also searching for his lost book of porn – Midnight at the Nursing Academy. I’m only assuming that the lost book is pornographic in nature, it’s never overtly stated, but I would expect nothing less from a right-handed fellow whose right bicep is a full half-inch bigger than his left. There’s a hungry iguana, a papier-mâché cupcake, and the gloom of Schopenhauer. In short, it’s an absolute farce, defying proper summation – much like trying to trying to coherently explain Tarkovsky’s Solaris after watching it completely inebriated – it can’t be done. It’s also gloriously ludicrous and unlikely to be appreciated by the masses.
The Teleportation Accident is an absurd, delightful novel that is at times enormously funny. There is no doubt that Bauman is a gifted, imaginative writer who seems to have a clear appreciation for his own talent and a disdain for unofficial four star reviews such as this one – a trait also unappreciated by the general public. Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, his prose is often brilliant, his descriptions comedic and clever. One of my favorite parts of the novel was the outrageous character names: Egon Loeser, Adele Hitler, Elisalexa Norb, Dieter Ziesel, Adriano Lavicini, Stent Mutton, Wilbur Gorge, etc. If there is a flaw, it is the sheer amount of elements present in the book which can be overwhelming and lack coherence. If you forgo the search for meaning and revel in the confusion that is The Teleportation Accident, you’re experience will be that much better and, frankly, less baffling.
Perhaps more importantly, should you read it? Yes, if you like the following paragraph:
When you knock a bowl of sugar on to your host’s carpet, it is a parody of the avalanche that killed his mother and father, just as the duck’s beak that your new girlfriend’s lips form when she attempts a seductive pout is a quotation of the quacking noise your last girlfriend made during sex. When the telephone rings in the night because a stranger has given a wrong extension to the operator, it is a homage to the inadvertent substitution of telegrams that terminated your adulterous cousin’s marriage, just as the resonant alcove between the counterpoised struts of your new girlfriend’s clavicle is a rebuttal to the apparent beauty of your last girlfriend’s fleshier decolletage. Or this is how it seemed to Egon Loeser, anyway, because the two subjects most hostile to his sense of a man’s life as an essentially steady, comprehensible and Newtonian-mechanical undertaking were accidents and women. And it sometimes seemed as if the only way to prevent that dread pair from toppling him all the way over into derangement was to treat them not as prodigies but rather as texts to be studied. Hence the principle: accidents, like women, allude. These allusions are no less witty or astute for being unconscious; indeed, they are more so, which is one reason why it’s probably a mistake to construct them deliberately. The other reason is that everyone might conclude you’re a total prick.
Clearly, this novel is not for everyone. There is sex, swearing, drugs, and alcohol on nearly every page. And sex. There’s bad champagne, silly metaphors, H.P. Lovecraft, and a complete disregard for history. Not surprisingly, I adored it. 4/5.
I’m not sure there’s any real food in the novel. However there are cocktails and lychee nuts. So I am recommending a Lychee Martini Jello Shot. Yes, this recipe actually exists. You learn new things everyday.
*For a more thorough explanation of Towel Day, visit Heather at Between the Covers.
*The post’s title references Marx‘s The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon, in this case it’s about Lavicini’s original teleportation accident which killed numerous people in the novel and Loeser’s subsequent teleportation accident which is not tragic, but very farcical (for those of you who will skip this one, but still want to know what I’m referring to).