This is a novel from 2009 by Robert Lopez who did not in fact fact write for Avenue Q, even though I thought he might have. That’s a different Robert Lopez.
In this novel, we get 175 pages of un-chaptered thoughts and moments from our narrator. There’s no chapter breaks but each little segment is only a few lines long through maybe a page at the longest. These are almost tiny pensees here. The narrator is in some kind of institution. It’s not clear for a while, maybe ever, if this is a hospital, a research facility, a prison, a lab, or some combination of all of these. But what we get is brief little moments of his present, punctuated by memories and connections back to his past.
It begins with the telephone ringing and the narrator’s response, that “I am fine” which he tells us means “Leave me alone”. This constant sense of what he says and what he means by builds through the narrative as the phone rings quite often, along with other little minor oft-repeated events.
We learn about his mom. We learn a lot about his older brother Charlie. And we learn tiny amounts of his life before. The mind at work here is fragile, to say the least and for reasons never really explained, there’s only a tiny grip on the present reality in front of him.
I am not entirely sure I enjoyed reading this book, but it’s often breathless and earnestly compelling to read. It’s like a combination of Emma Donohue’s Room and Tom McCarthy’s Remainder.