LOLA, CALIFORNIA by Edie Meidav
“There is the need for the interdisciplinary reading of bodies with students, for breaking away from dichotomies, ruptures that are enviable and deforming.”
Review by Betsey Van Horn В (AUG 3, 2011)
In this artful, cerebral novel spanning four decades and encompassing the tribal conventions and counterculture movements of the 70’s and 80’s, the reader is plunged into a cunning world of philosophy and hedonism that is best described as baroque rawness or stark-naked grandiloquence. If these terms appear to be incompatible pairings, the reader will grasp the seeming polarity as axiomatic soon after feasting on Edie Meidav’s complex narrative style. A carnal vapor infuses every provocative page of this unorthodox psychological crime thriller.
Contrary to the suggestive cover, title, and product description, this will not appeal to fans of chick lit or genre suspense thrillers. This is more in tune with Martin Amis or Salman Rushdie, with a peppering of TC Boyle and Dan Chaon. Muscular, sweat-producing, and erudite, the satisfaction of reading these pages rests on the reader’s consent to capitulate control of predetermined ideas and conceptions and enter into a contract with the author, giving Meidav permission and authority to rule the aesthetic jurisdiction, and to accede to the flow, command, and demand of its prose.
The eponymous title refers to Lana Mahler and her best friend, Rose, who meet as teenagers and form a bond that graduates from symbiotic to alpha/supplicant (Lana as alpha). They call themselves Lola One and Lola Two. Lana’s parents are both esteemed academics; her father, Vic, is a neuroscientist cum philosopher of the counterculture variety, and has his own willing supplicants known as “shaggies.”
Lana’s mother is an ethnologist/feminist who has garnered popular fame. As noted, the novel takes place primarily in California, with an emphasis on the analysis of California lifestyles and attitudes, particularly the free-thinking Berkeley. Lana and Rose parted ways many years ago, but the psychodynamics of their early relationship continues to haunt both of them.
The book opens in 2008 in the Alcatraz penitentiary. Vic Mahler is on death row, with an execution date less than two weeks away. The author takes us into Mahler’s mind, which gravitates from hearty to hallucinogenic. We learn that he hasn’t seen his daughter in twenty years, but that Rose has been writing him letters and offering her assistance as an attorney. Juxtaposed with the prison opening, the story takes us to Lana, who is on her way to a desert spa with her latest boyfriend and her twin boys, a place right out of Boyle‘s The Road to Wellville. Rosa is on the verge of tracing Lana down after a twenty-year separation.
The disclosure of Vic’s crime and fate, as well as the unveiling of the Mahler family and Rose, is gradually revealed by positioning each character in alternating chapters. They examine their lives, past and present, and dissect each other, so that the reader is shown each character through various lenses that eventually coalesce into a prism of overlapping and juxtaposed realities.
Like Chaon’s Await Your Reply, the narrative unfolds with an intricate opacity toward transparency. Meidav has a knack for shocking the reader at intervals, like the best thrillers do. Just as the Lolas once worked as strip-tease dancers together, the author unveils surprises in increments like a strip-tease act for the reader.
Lana and Rose are the locus of the novel, and the narrative forms a mosaic or tapestry of several dialogues and narratives between them and their relationship with the external world, much like Rushdie‘s Midnight’s Children is a tapestry of texts and collage of languages that form a unity of what is virtual and what is real. There is a constant flux between the Lolas, and a tension between what is true and what is illusive, what is implied and what is extant.
It took me about one hundred pages to relax into Meidav’s style, the wrap-around sentences and esoterica of neuroscience and philosophy, the limbic arousal and dourness of Martin Amis.
“…people’s faces work to hold up new veils by the minute: the all-time favorite is dignity, as is the visage of sex-transcending enlightenment, a new kind of spiritual chastity armature.”
Meidav’s bare-bones plot–a crime, a perpetrator, and a fate–are less important than the characters that inhabit this dystopia of false and renegade idols. Nature, the pliable state of consciousness, and the desire to reclaim the credo of youth and supple confidence, is the plaintive hope and recursive doctrine. We are all disciples of the mind; we are prisoners of our bodies.
|AMAZON READER RATING:||from 8 readers|
|PUBLISHER:||Farrar, Straus and Giroux (July 5, 2011)|
|REVIEWER:||Betsey Van Horn|
|AVAILABLE AS A KINDLE BOOK?||YES! Start Reading Now!|
|AUTHOR WEBSITE:||Edie Meidav|
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