I’ve been following Sean Ferrell’s blog since the days when he gave better odds to being struck by a meteor that getting his book published. The man’s math might be suspect, but he’s got a marvelously intelligent sense of humor, and gives great interview.
How can you not pay attention to a man who says:
“It took me a long time to realize that finding my own way to write was okay. I kept trying what people told me was “the way.” Problem: there is no one way. It’s not like traveling by train where there are rails and if you go off you’re doomed; it’s a bit more like exploring hiking trails: go for a while, get lost, refind the trail, get lost again, find some amazing views you didn’t expect, then pass out, exhausted.”*
Not to mention:
“If you ever want to know the location of my secret fortress just ask me to write a synopsis of my novel: I’ll crack like a twig.”
So it was with great anticipation that I got my hands on my own copy of Numb.
I read it. Twice. It’s that kind of book.
Smarter people than I have reviewed this story and found things that made me go, “Hmmm.” But to me, Numb is an exploration of protective dissociation, where the psychological runs parallel with the physical. **
The main character of Numb is . . . numb. He has no past, he feels no physical pain, has very little affect, and he bobs around like a rubber duck in an ocean of stimuli, letting the waves toss him around.
There is something simmering underneath the main character’s thick layer of passive skin, but only a deep strike, psychological as much as physical, can penetrate enough to trigger a willful change in course. At the beginning of the book, his boss at the circus shoves him in a cage with a lion—a monstrously selfish act, pun intended, that shreds Numb’s leg. Numb’s buried core of self-preservation is breached, and he walks out.
The effect doesn’t last long, though Numb’s best friend, Mal, appears to be trying to break through with increasingly outrageous acts that hurt only himself. But even the love and acceptance of a woman who can see through Numb’s armor isn’t worth the potential pain and responsibility.
Until the affronts against Numb start to build and he’s finally shaken loose from his cocoon. . .
When I was in the fourth grade, I learned a valuable lesson—don’t play “Red light, Green light” in a room with French doors at both ends. I have a wide, oval scar where broken window glass scooped a chunk out of my wrist. The nerves under the smooth scar tissue convey only pressure—even the dog puncturing it with her toenails some years ago didn’t hurt. While I read this book, I found myself running the edge of a fingernail over it, sensitivity to null to sensitivity, wondering what it would be like to abdicate . . .
It’s that kind of book.
* One can only hope—I’ve already got the lost and exhaustion parts down . . .
**See, Dad? I am using my degree. And probably horrifying Mr. Ferrell in the process. . .