Elliot’s reading the postmodern conclusion to halliday’s asynmmetry electricity song 2015


The final (brief) section (Ezra Blazer’s Desert Island Discs) of Lisa Halliday’s novel, Asymmetry, puts a postmodern spin on the entire work, creating a "hall of mirrors" effect – whow "real is any character in a novel? can we trust the author as a reliable narrator? does the character "Ezra" represent the author Philip Roth or not?, to name just a few of the provocative edges of this odd novel. As noted in previous posts, the first section seems to be closely based on LH’s life and on her friendship with Philip Roth; the second section, intentionally, seems to have little or no autobiographical elements, which both demonstrates LH’s range as a writer and forces us to consider what it means for a novel to "represent" or "mirror" reality. This short third section is a written as a transcript of a BBC radio broadcast of an interview with "Ezra" (Roth?) on a show whose format is to ask a famous person to discuss the 6 discs that they would take w/ them to a desert island. So we see immediately, as the interviewer discusses Ezra’s background, that he is in some ways much like Roth (the humor, the literary recognition, the age, the middle-class urban Jewish background) but by careful selection of salient details LH distances Ezra from Roth (something she did not do in the first section, w/ minor exceptions), e.g., he’s from Pittsburgh (not Newark), he went to Allegheny College (not Bucknell), and, guess what?, his career was capped with a Nobel (should have happened but hasn’t happened yet and is unlikely to happen as PR has retired from fiction writing – but who knows?). The point is that LH is going out of her way to show that she’s played a bit of a trick on us; the character that we thought of as PR is now evolving – and btw his taste in music seems more elevated and esoteric than Roth’s who, as far as I know, has never written seriously about music (as he has about another passion LH spends a lot of capital on in part 1, baseball). In the interview, Ezra say something quite striking (p 261 I think), when he notes that a young woman, whom he declines to name, is writing a book about someone closely resembling him and about someone not like him at all – which raises the question: Who is the referent here? Is it the character Alice? Or the novelist LH, who has now made herself into a character in her own novel? These head-spinning remarks don’t really clarify anything, but they force us to put on the brakes, to be cautious about ferreting in fiction for autobiographical (or biographical) details – especially helpful in that, at the end of the interview (and the novel) Ezra acts in a particularly lascivious and creepy way as he comes on the the interviewer. It would be a mean way for LH to repay her debt to PR, but of course she’s made it cleat that the character and the author can never be one and the same. (LH also includes an especially detailed set of acknowledgements, which are really copyright/permission citations for the most part – but did she really need to cite the edition she used for a quote from Dickens? And should she perhaps have noted that the long quote from the lyrics of Who’s Got the Last Laugh? spotlights a song recently featured in Halt and Catch Fire?)