Rupert: A Confession

Scout's honor: On a purely linguistic level, there was something about Pfeijffer's sentences with their direct, unbuttoned elegance that reminded me of Philip Roth. This comparison shimmered in my mind before I got to the third chapter of Rupert: A Confession, where an uproarious bit of mortification ties the novels lineage to Portnoy's Complaint. Let's just say here, too, is a novel for those who aren't made skittish by a torrent of testosterone. Like its predecessor, Rupert takes the form of a personal disclosure, though its end point is much darker. Appearing before a jury, the eponymous narrator seeks to exculpate himself from a violent incident. His means for accomplishing this are peculiar. A self-proclaimed master in the arts of memory, Rupert leads his auditors on a tour of his carnality, which he hopes will show that he could not have committed the offense under scrutiny. His aide-memoire is the city's surrounding geography. His hubris is such that he conflates his precision in delineating the qualities, for example, of a good public square, which he overlays with erotic overtones with moral rectitude. At length, what creeps out from the basement of his increasingly frazzled narrative as initially funny details grow warped are the grotesque consequences of a life devoted to spectating and celebrity envy. (Spoiler alert: If at the end you wonder who the victim is, go back to the above-mentioned chapter.) Indeed, perhaps the final surprise of Rupert: A Confession is how closely allied it is to the work of The Society of the Spectacle author, Guy Debord.

July 28: Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin eloped on this day in 1814.

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