Why review now and not wait until I’m finished? Two reasons:
- I’m no good at lying, and this will assure completion.
- You’re probably reading something that’s wasting your time and these books could solve that.
The Instructions is a big ambitious beguiling book. Adam Levin is genius material (and, yes, I know the dangers and futility of such a moniker, but still…). He constructs a thousand plus pages of compelling fiction–no small feat. Well, to be honest, I’m only on page 484, but I’ve seen no signs of flagging. And don’t take seriously any of the comparisons you may have read to David Foster Wallace. This is straight narrative, spanning a period of four days in the life of an indescribably precocious grade-schooler. Yes, we have footnotes and e-mails and embedded essays, but this is no post-modern maelstrom, any more than Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein is a study in layered narratives in the form of a Russian-Doll full of letters. I will eschew a plot summary here in the service of alleviating any prejudice toward certain subject matter. That said, don’t let the religious content, if you are averse to such leanings or consider yourself inconversant in such matters, keep you from giving yourself over to the ride. If you have any interest, however, in theology or Jewish mysticism, specifically (personally, I’m a sucker for this strange mixture of logic and magic to be found at the fringes of our religious traditions), waste no time in getting to your nearest local bookstore and tucking this tome under your arm. What’s important here, and the reason for my commitment to finishing this book, is the depth of human experience that Levin plumbs. This is high comic tragedy without the overbearing irony to keep you at too much of a distance. Like Moby Dick, the book begs you to allow its indulgences; trust they will lead to a reconsideration of what it means to be human–to believe, to doubt, to suffer and to love. Yes, Levin seems to be telling us, fiction, despite the cynicism even among many of its practitioners, can still do this.
[sic], thankfully, transcends its clever title in ways I am yet still uncertain but confident, nonetheless. In another words, I’m only on page 10, but two or three sentences that can only be described as revelatory have me convinced. In fact, this is memoir at its most convincing. Joshua Cody is a composer, as well
as a writer, making his exploration of illness and its meanings musical in the fullest sense of the word. He understand the physical nature of his medium, what he calls the “material slapping of molecules against the tympanum of the ear,” and its inextricable relationship to what is an undeniably physical subject. If you think you’ve read all you can about cancer, think again. If you think you’ve read enough “self-revalation,” you’ve yet to read it.