THE BLINDFOLD TEST by Barry Schechter

Book Quote:

“On the second floor he paused before turning the key. He had opened his door on other nights to find the apartment ransacked or flooded with raw sewage or—the result, apparently, of an electrical fire—reduced to the struts and wires behind a movie set. But the card-table furniture, cheap stereo, bare bulbs, and bald velveteen couch that made up his remaining living-room furnishings would hardly tempt crime or even bad luck.”

Book Review:

Reviewed by Chris “C.T.” Terry (JUL 30, 2009)

In The Blindfold Test, the darkly comic debut novel from Barry Schechter, Jeffrey Parker is an academic thirty-something who lives in Chicago. After a promising start, his career has petered out. He is teaching at a suburban community college, his relationship is on the skids, and his day-to-day life is a litany of minor humiliations.

One night, during a strange encounter with a disguised man, Parker discovers that the government has sabotaged his life. A rogue FBI agent, a holdover from the anti-hippie COINTELPRO, has plagued Parker ever since he passively attended an anti-war rally while in college. Suddenly, Parker has someone to blame for the frustrations of his adult life. There is now a reason that the promising job leads haven’t panned out, that his apartment is ground zero for small natural disasters, and that his hair caught on fire the other day on the train. With this revelation, the world that Parker has so successfully shut out is thrown into focus, and paranoia mounts, as every acquaintance becomes suspect. As Parker’s run-ins with the FBI agent become more and more vicious, he is forced to reconsider how he perceives and interacts with the world around him.

The Blindfold Test brings to mind the stark existentialism of Franz Kafka and the arch neurosis of Woody Allen. It has a farcical style that inches its way into magical realism as a legion of men in shoddy disguises overtakes Chicago, and Parker’s life is made ludicrous by pranks such as the removal of the last page of every one of the books in his apartment.

Parker is a professor, prone to dense, analytical conversations. While visiting his girlfriend, he meets a romantic rival in her apartment. This rival is also a colleague and Parker says, “Last time we spoke you were expounding the ‘small world’ theory. I guess tonight proves it.”

Such dialogue is exaggerated enough to be a parody of tweedy professors, but it can read like an in-joke among the type of people who are being lampooned. While most of the humor is so straight-faced that the reader almost forgets how funny The Blindfold Test is, the narrator’s amused remove from the story’s events can nudge the voice from deadpan to smirky. Still, this cerebral tone fits The Blindfold Test’s strangeness, and that’s Schechter’s victory; he has crafted a book that is thoughtful enough to make even the most far-fetched elements plausible.

Aside from waking the paranoid crank in even the most level-headed reader, The Blindfold Test will hit home with anyone who has ever stopped, sighed and asked “Why me?” to no one in particular.

AMAZON READER RATING: no customer reviews yet
PUBLISHER: Melville House (June 2, 2009)
REVIEWER: Chris “CT” Terry
AMAZON PAGE: The Blindfold Test
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Publisher page on the book and Barry Schechter
EXTRAS: NewCity interview with Barry Schecter about The Blindfold Test
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July 30, 2009 · Judi Clark · One Comment
Posted in: Debut Novel, Drift-of-Life, Humorous

One Response

  1. mtfrechet - July 31, 2009

    This is a great review. I’m always impressed with smart, shorter reviews that say so much and can make me laugh. Looking forward to the book now!

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