|Ted Mooney: Easy Travel to Other Planets|
Books (Paperback), ISBN 0679738835
The image of a woman engaged in sexual relations with a dolphin registers in the reader's mind. Her boyfriend looms in the background, continuing his own adulterous relationship. One sees her friend, enroute to her seventh abortion, as an abusive and threatening boyfriend flits by. Such images capture the reader's attention, arouse curiosity and defy conventional reasoning.
Mooney demonstrates his ability to make an aberrant idea (such as physical relationships between humans and dolphins) convincing. His masterful descriptions encompass both the tender and the brutal aspects of the cross-species relationship, leading the reader to believe that the fascinating interaction between human and dolphin will frame the novel. They offer the illusion of a shocking, tantalizing and refreshing new literary style.
They do remain illusions though. High expectations fostered by the beginning of the book falter as the reader muddles through the middle. In an interview, Mooney claimed that he wrote the book in a single draft and admitted filling in the middle chapters from a predetermined beginning and end . Stylistic weaknesses include a declining quality of writing and a loss of fluency as the story progresses. As the interactions of four dysfunctional young adults replace the dolphin on center stage, feelings of shock and energy give way to boredom and listlessness. I faced a long and slightly painful journey to the end.
Despite the title of the book, travel proves anything but easy, especially to other planets. Images of travel and movement abound. But despite using various forms of transportation, the characters never arrive at their intended destinations. Hoping that spiritual mobility could aid in their journey, individuals move in and out of mental planets, from the highs of drugs, love, parental attachment, and connection with children to the lows of abuse, fixations with death, and a fear of responsibility. Despite their frequent endeavors to move, human attachment, societal pressures, and powers beyond their control inhibit their attempts to loosen physical and mental paralysis.
The descriptions offer an eerie comparison to today's media and electronically propelled society. In this environment (a possible prognostication of our future), travel becomes almost impossible. Despite an increasingly global world, humans find themselves literally paralyzed by the modern developments deemed helpful and educational. Unable to process the vast amounts of information, they fall prey to the dreaded malady, information sickness.
Given the moral and physical free-falls these characters experience, it should come as no surprise that each finds his or her own state of destruction, trapped by themselves and the society in which they live, helpless in the face of fate.
An unusual book with a unique voice, Easy Travel to Other Planets took my imagination on a trip. However, the ride was less gripping than I hoped. If I had it to do over again, I would choose another book off my shelf.
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