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Clearly, A Transparent Blogpost

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What is Clear? A Transparent Novel. A story in a perspex box. You can see through Clear. I am guessing because you kinda know how its going to end. It’s about David Blaine. Isn’t it? And the televised starvation stunt.

It’s on Wikipedia for Chrissakes! A rather comprehensive wiki entry too. In 2003, David Blaine starves himself for 44 days (this is where it gets tricky) while shut up in a see-through box hung up somewhere above the legendary River Thames. He’s also a magician. Aha!  And an artist. Oh yeah? Ever heard the term magical arts? Oh.

But why the fuss? He’s just doing his job. Isn’t he?  Putting food on the table. No big deal.

Big deal for Nicola Baker.  In 2005, she wrote what I think is the first ever transparent novel about David Blaine starving away 50 pounds of his life in 44 days. Four days more than Christ in the Wilderness.  He did it for the world to see. Live on the ground. Live on TV. A spectacle that must been! And a crowd it must have mustered!

From this crowd, Barker handpicks a young man. His name is Adair. Btw, the most annoying protagonist you will ever meet. He tells you every rubbish that comes into his head…in a stream-of-consciousness kinda way…like he’s having a conversation with himself or with you the reader. Is he supposed to be witty or just talkative? Anyway, so she takes this guy called Adair. Then she takes a few more men and a woman. Her name is Aphra. And Solomon, Adairs roommate, a black guy. And that girl Adair works with, whose name I can’t remember and won’t look up. And Solomon’s girlfriend. Oh, can’t forget the dying man. And yeah, the fortune teller person.

So it turns out the story is not really about Blaine and I’m guessing his desire to disappear and become transparent just like his box.  It’s also about this other network of lives and how Blaine affords them a crowded stage on which to crash into one another. And while they are at it, carry on pretentious conversations about religion, race, sex and of course Blaine.

I hope I’ve not ruined the book for you. If for nothing else, it’s a good deal, reading wise. You get at least 4 books for the labor it takes to read 1. If you’ve never read Kafka’s “A Hunger Artist,” Primo Levi’s This is A man, and David Blaine’s own Mysterious Stranger, don’t bother. Just read Clear. You get a nice little gloss on all three novels. And then the 16 other books that are blurbed or simply mentioned. Pride  and Prejudice, Company of Cowards, British Food: An Extraordinary Thousand Years of History, etc. A must-know list for cocktail conversations.

A Clear novel. Clear: A Transparent Novel. The titling is a bit confusing. So why is it a transparent novel again? Ummmm. I really can’t say. Why don’t you read and see if you’ll fair any better?

David Blaine—Above The Below

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Ainehi Edoro is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she teaches African literature. She received her doctorate at Duke University. She is the founder and editor of Brittle Paper and series editor of Ohio University Press’s Modern African Writer’s imprint.

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