The Story of Forgetting by Stefan Merrill Block

October 1, 2009
The Story of Forgetting

Stefan Merill Block's Story of Forgetting is a mixed bag. On the one hand, Block displays literary genius as delves deeply into the psychological back-story of his characters, and creates a setting that is both memorable and recognizable in our time. However, it is plagued with wondering thoughts and underdeveloped back story and ideas that makes this novel ultimately fall short.

In his first novel, Block displays a mastery of language throughout the novel. This can especially be seen when he writes about Isadora, a by-product of long daydreams and a need to cope with the boredom and stress of college life. In its opening paragraph, Block describes that "Beyond the Golden City lie the endless gardens of Isadora, where simple desire controls everything. In the gardens, two Isadorians will meet with no memory of each other, without realizing they have already fallen in love a thousand times over and will simply fall in love once more [Block 39]. Through Isadora, Block also shows that he is able to write a complete tale that is worthy of challenging some of the oldest and most cherished of fairy tales. However, the same cannot be said of Abel and Seth's segments. Block uses a more direct style of writing when speaking through them and the end result sounds remarkably similar. Both use heavy detail to describe their surroundings and similes and metaphors are used sparingly, making for a particularly dry read. The well written parts are forced to make up for the sparsely written ones.

Block also displays a talent for developing characters, as Abel, the old hunchback, became the character he could identify with most. For instance, Abel decided "[his] '1993 Dodge Ram six-wheel pickup truck needed a name simpler than "My 1993 Dodge Ram six-wheel, V-9 extended-cab pickup truck.' At first [he] thought] [he] would name it Iona, The Sequel. But because [he] didn't want to disrespect Iona [Abel's Horse], who was still [his] preferred means of transportation, and still a living creature and not a machine, [he] decided a better name would be The Horseless Iona." [Block 149] Abel is displayed throughout the novel as an old man with a sense of humor about his lot in life and his back story is thoroughly developed. Seth, on the other hand, was not so intelligently handled. Seth practically has no history beyond some of the things he used to do with his mother in the past. His personality is no developed much beyond an ambitious anti-social high school student and the fact he was given no friends helped to further make it difficult to assess any change in his character through his experiences in the novel. This character, as it seems, was meant mostly to drive the narrative forward along with Block's highly entertaining Genetic History sections. As it appears, when Block writes his characters fully, they are brilliant, but when they are not, they come out as flat and static.

Finally, Block shows a talent for implementing science into his novel. Being home-schooled for several years, and learning about a variety of subjects obviously had an impact on his ability to write while incorporating science. Block's description of a fictional EOA-23 Alzheimer gene's origin from a British noble of the novel describes that “it was somehow related to the three cups of wine the duchess always had to consume before the swollen, gouty mass of her husband's body. Maybe it was somehow related to the interconnecting limbs of British nobility's family tree, gentility's nottions of its own of its own superiority leading straight to genetic inferiority [Block 54]. Block displays a talent for merging science with the fancifulness of what-if scenarios and shows he is a capable writer of this throughout the novel.

To summarize what has been said, Block obviously has talent. However, his first novel is riddle with issues of consistency and strength when he ventures outside of his normal writing voice and attempts to develop character. I would recommend this to anyone who is a fan of science and fiction being merged into clever new ideas, but otherwise, leave this one on the book shelf.

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