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Force of Gravity

by R.S. Jones

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481408,459 (3.67)5
Paranoid yet judiciously reasonable, innocent yet calculating, strange yet strangely endearing, Emmet Barfield finds the world around him looming larger and larger the more he struggles to make his way within it. With Emmet as our guide, Force of Gravity transforms the world through a solitary consciousness until the reader's perceptions become as inverted as if seen through a modern version of Alice's looking glass. Emmet's world is a place where shopping in a market requires the cunning of a carefully considered crime, where a bustling city street in summer appears as desolate as a forgotten wasteland, where a stray cat adopted for company becomes as menacing as one's darkest foe, and where a mother and son riding a ski lift suddenly find themselves dizzy with the threat of death. Through his eyes, the world becomes newly alive with the terrible vividness and weird beauty of an undiscovered territory.… (more)

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. Force of Gravity by R.S. Jones

I picked this book up after seeing it described as a charming exploration of character moving between emotional sensitivity and florid paranoia.

And indeed, Emmet is a caring and likeable person, and on one level his descent into madness is humorous. He feels compelled to document everything wrong in the city, and so he memorizes the municipal code, "although sometimes now, he grew overburdened by all he had learned. He found evidence of lawlessness every time he left his apartment. Even when he opened the back door to shake lint from a rug into the neighborhood air, he knew from his pamphlets that he was committing a crime."

After a friend told him that there were cameras in the department stores where he shopped, Emmet became concerned. He "knew he acted suspiciously even when he was alone. He imagined that there were rolls and rolls of negatives of him stored in tin cannisters in darkrooms through-out the city."

As the summer progressed, Emmet's madness deepened, and he began to believe that his neighbors are watching him in shifts from their porches and sidewalks: "Whenever they sensed something out of order, an alarm swept through them like a code tapped through prison walls. People he had never met had begun to nod at him knowingly, as if they had read a dossier in a file somewhere and been made to memorize his photograph. Emmet believed he was the subject they spoke about over dinner, and even, as the days wore on, the person they wrote about in letters to friends and relatives he would never meet."

The second part of the book takes place after Emmet is institutionalized. His roomate believes that Emmet is John Lennon incognito, and begs Emmet to let him in on the secrets of the White Album, and whether Paul is really dead. Other inmates are also vividly and lovingly drawn.

There are serious undertones to this book--mental illness is not all fun and games. However, Emmett is one of the more colorful and engaging characters I've come across recently. Highly recommended ( )
  arubabookwoman | Jun 20, 2010 |
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Paranoid yet judiciously reasonable, innocent yet calculating, strange yet strangely endearing, Emmet Barfield finds the world around him looming larger and larger the more he struggles to make his way within it. With Emmet as our guide, Force of Gravity transforms the world through a solitary consciousness until the reader's perceptions become as inverted as if seen through a modern version of Alice's looking glass. Emmet's world is a place where shopping in a market requires the cunning of a carefully considered crime, where a bustling city street in summer appears as desolate as a forgotten wasteland, where a stray cat adopted for company becomes as menacing as one's darkest foe, and where a mother and son riding a ski lift suddenly find themselves dizzy with the threat of death. Through his eyes, the world becomes newly alive with the terrible vividness and weird beauty of an undiscovered territory.

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