Book Review: by Lang Reid Pattaya Mail
The front cover of this new book from prolific author Dean Barrett (Kingdom of Make Believe, Memoirs of a Bangkok Warrior, Dragon Slayer, Murder at the Horny Toad Bar and many others) announces the title Identity Theft but then has as sub-titles Alzheimer’s in America, Sex in Thailand and Tangles of the Mind.
Published this year by Village East Books (ISBN 978-0-9788888-1-7) and printed in Thailand by Allied Printing, I will from the outset say that this is not the book for everyone. If, in your opinion, books should have a beginning, a middle and an end, you will be disappointed, but if you are willing to open up your mind a little and go with the flow, you will find this a remarkable book.
It reminds me of a picture of Whistler’s Mother I once saw (probably in a Mad Magazine, and let’s vote for Arthur E Newman for president). There was a painting hanging on the wall beside her. It was Whistler’s Mother, and there was a painting hanging on the wall of that picture, and it was Whistler’s Mother, and… and… ad infinitum. In Identity Theft, the book is written by a character called Dan Richards, although we know that the book was really written by Dean Barrett. However, in Dan Richard’s book, the author Dean Barrett is introduced as yet another character, all of whom interact with each other. On the surface it is confusing, but scratch deeper and it is a wonderful literary masterpiece that will make the reader return many times, sometimes doubting his or her own sanity.
The “identity theft” relates to the fact that in Alzheimer’s Disease, the body remains, but the identity is slowly and painfully removed from the carcass, until the ‘person’ you once knew has disappeared forever, in a neural tangle, which can never be unraveled.
The various characters which skip through the pages are themselves enigmas such as Lek, the poorly educated go-go dancer who is acquainted with the works of Thomas Wolfe and gets her own footnote from the Real author Dean Barrett who states that “compared to many larger mysteries inherent in Bangkok nightlife, this somewhat jarring incongruity is of little importance and should not trouble the reader further.”
And of course, incongruity is an inherent part of Alzheimer’s Disease, resulting in the end where previously rational human beings turn into worse than a three year old with temper tantrums. All logic has gone and with it, the ability to recognize ‘self’.
The book makes you realize the wisdom of Rene Descartes with his “Cogito, ergo sum” (English: I think, therefore I am). When you cannot think, you are no longer existing.
At B. 450, this is not the book for everyone, but is a ‘sudoku’ of words that will make your mind expand as you read through it. Personally, I thought the concept was brilliant, though the execution was at times difficult. However, perhaps Dean Barrett and Dan Richards just want you to experience a little of the pains of Alzheimer’s Disease, but reading is an experience you can return from, as opposed to dementia.
Book Review from Midwest Book Review:
Sometimes a dream is so good that one simply doesn't want to wake up. "Identity Theft: Alzheimer's in America, Sex in Thailand, Tangles of the Mind" is a strange blend of story elements which come together in one unique and highly entertaining novel. Dan Richards has Alzheimer's, and his lack of desire to deal with the fact has his caretakers going mad. A novel filled with morally ambiguous priests, Thai go-go dancers, and Revolutionary War patriots, "Identity Theft" is highly recommended reading for any fiction lover.
"Often moving, often hilarious, often erotic and always insightful. A daring novel of passion and compassion as pointedly unashamed as it is fascinating." - Harold Stephens, author, For the Love of Siam
"Only someone with the fervid imagination of Dean Barrett could have written this unabashed demolition of reality. There are more twists and turns than a drunken rattlesnake and that's before the author makes an appearance as a character in his own novel. Best read with a bottle of Wild Turkey in one hand and a bottle of tranquilizers in the other. Oh, yes, there's sex in it, too. A lot of sex. Bliss." - Stephen Leather, author, Private Dancer
The novel of 84,000 words entitled Identity Theft is a type of literary fiction perhaps somewhat in the style of England's late experimental novelist, B.S. Johnson.
Michael Herr wrote Dispatches on the Vietnam War in an attempt to capture the discordant sounds, madcap sights and peculiar rhythms of that conflict. Identity Theft deals with the horrors of Alzheimer's and in particular the stress on the caregivers, segueing from the lyrical to the offensive, from erotica to scenes of humor, from the logical to the bizarre, all the while weaving in and out of the minds of characters any of whom might be the author of the novel or simply one of the characters inside the hallucinations of the author. In other words, the novel attempts to capture the twists and turns and mangled logic inside a world being formed and distorted by Alzheimer's tangles and plaques.
The novel begins in Connecticut where a teacher is writing a novel about Thailand. When his skull is inadvertently crushed during a sex act he is rushed to the hospital and the novel he was writing becomes (at times) this novel, with scenes set in Connecticut, Thailand and Florida.
At its core, Identity Theft is the story of an overwhelmed caregiver attempting respite from dealing with his mother's Alzheimer's by creating and entering a bizarre world populated with Thai go go dancers, kinky sex, insurance fraud, kidnapping and murder, until at last what may be his real world begins to separate from what may be his fictional world. The novel is also an attempt to explore the relationship of writer to character. The opening of the novel is also in the form of a synopsis for reviewers too busy to read entire novels.
Millions now have some form of dementia, usually Alzheimer's, and the crisis is getting worse. I believe this novel is quite timely. And, oh yeah, sexy.