David Elroy,
Bouncing Worlds
(Caterpillar Press, 1999)

On the positive side, Bouncing Worlds, David Elroy's first novel, is written in easily digestible episodes, each no more than a few pages long. It can be read leisurely, set aside and picked up when the mood strikes.

On the negative side, after I set it aside, I didn't want to pick it back up. I only did because the editor ever so tactfully explained that I needed to finish the book and write a review. I did. It wasn't excruciatingly painful, but it also wasn't a joyous experience.

Bouncing Worlds thrusts its protagonist Johnny into a variety of different scenarios (the back cover says a hundred) to prepare him to share his life with the beautiful Marilyn. It's an intriguing concept and the diverse realities are imaginative and vivid. The problem is that each of the brief short stories are ultimately unsatisfying. Instead of resolving the conflict of the moment, Johnny again bounces either into another story or into the Victorian parlor where he meets with his mentor Jazpar. Because the 2- to 3-page vignettes are so laden with description, there is also limited character development and, as a reader, I didn't especially care if Johnny really learned anything on this life journey or not.

This novel aspires to be labeled "intellectual," and perhaps it is, but for a book to be truly moving and inspiring, it needs to involve the reader in those pursuits. Bouncing Worlds doesn't encourage thought because Johnny expounds on his rather predictable epiphanies sometimes to great length. I did find myself pondering if there was perhaps a plot I'd overlooked or when the book would finally end.

The point of Bouncing Worlds seems to be a pursuit of surrealism. To achieve that ultimate bliss, he must first learn to appreciate life and his place within it. I wish I had spent more time appreciating my own life and less time reading this book.

[ by Julie Bowerman ]
Rambles: 10 August 2001

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