The Blue Mountain Review Issue 16

Page 75

A.S. COOMER’S MEMORABILIA By Clifford Brooks Memorabilia is a book about a man’s fragmented humanity. The author, AS Coomer, has been compared to Kerouac and Kafka in his sprawling narrative and mastery of the absurd. I can see the kinship, but Coomer tells his own story, his own way, and creates a unique brand of gothic surrealism. The reader is not allowed to get comfortable within the novel. The mental and emotional turmoil of its lead character, Adjunct Professor Stephen Paul, is crystalized in Coomer’s bare perspective, and it seeps into your nerves. A line from Ralph Ellison’s book, Invisible Man, echoed in my head, “When I discover who I am, I’ll be free.” Stephen Paul splinters under the weight of his friend’s, a colleague and literary genius, suicide. Further muddied by alcohol and drug abuse, exacerbated by an unfeeling English department who only aims to bury the tragedy, backhands the protagonist into a downward spiral. The reader watches his internal struggle dismantle reality. Who is Stephen Paul? Memorabilia doesn’t remain in the unconscious. The often unforgiving livelihood of an adjunct professor, the harsh realities of loneliness, incarceration, and America’s mental health system all make their presence known throughout the novel. The elastic nature of time and memory leave you questioning how much is the ranting of a madman, and what is the stark, sad truth. But there is a strange redemption. Stephen Paul finds his way out of the Kafka-esque confines of heartbreak and terror. As he followed the golden thread out of a dark time in a deep maze, we bite, claw, and fight on alongside him. As odd as the story’s turns may seem, there is universal appeal. That delicate line between a social disconnect in a time of ruling social media, and tangible link to the battles that rage in all of us to find out identity is meticulously walked by Coomer. After reviewing Memorabilia, I had a few questions for the author: