The next day finds you lying naked in a dumpster in a different state, smeared from head to toe with a mixture of Sriracha sauce and glitter. At first you remember nothing. But then, as your throbbing brain slowly reboots, memories of the night before, disturbing memories, begin creeping into your consciousness. As the full, hideous picture comes into focus, you curl into a ball, whimpering, asking yourself over and over: Did that really happen?
That’s how we here at the Year in Review feel about 2017. It was a year so surreal, so densely populated with strange and alarming events, that you have to seriously consider the possibility that somebody — and when we say “somebody,” we mean “Russia” — was putting LSD in our water supply. A bizarre event would occur, and it would be all over the news, but before we could wrap our minds around it, another bizarre event would occur, then another and another, coming at us faster and faster, battering the nation with a Category 5 weirdness hurricane that left us hunkering down, clinging to our sanity, no longer certain what was real.
For literary memoirs, a brisk survey of the genre insists, are hardly ever about what really happens to the people whose names appear on their jackets. They are far more likely to be about what those people think happens to them or how they wish to be regarded by the readers who buy their work. Anthony Powell, for example, and despite compelling evidence to the contrary, always imagined himself to be “a poor boy made good”. Lodge, on the other hand, offered the highly unusual spectacle of a creative writer simply setting down, with sometimes disarming lack of guile, how he had come to be the person he was.
Clause by clause, word by word, anything becomes plausible. Control is achieved through willing proximity to its loss. It seems he’s “just filling a notebook with jazz”, but then these directionless improvisations acquire the weight of stories. Sideways drift gives way to narrative. So let’s hand the wheel back to the narrator at the Starlight who has “nothing to show for 36 years on this earth. Except that God is closer to me than my next breath. And that’s all I’ll ever need or want. If you think I’m bullshitting, kiss my ass. My story is the amazing truth.”