Monday, February 15, 2010

Swimming Inside the Sun - David Zweig

Summary: On the verge of success, struggling New York City musician Daniel Green has his life’s dream snatched from him. Despondent, Dan seeks solace and answers from the comforts of women, great thinkers from Marx to Kierkegaard, and the security of rice milk. Suffering from a darkly comical state of extreme self-consciousness, Dan begins to lose his grip on reality, and in a meta-fictional twist, the narrative shifts from first to third-person as his depersonalization peaks. All the while, the signs of his existential dilemma become, literally, the writing on the wall, as his studio apartment is increasingly taken over by The Notes he can’t seem to stop writing. Battling loneliness and a mind that can no longer discern between fiction and real life, Dan’s only hope may be the redemptive force of music. In a culture obsessed with tales of winners’ ascensions to the top, Dan Green’s story, defiantly, irreverently, is about what happens when you fail and the roads you take to figure out what next?

My Review:
I received a copy of David Zweig's book for review. It is Dan Green's story, a musician who puts all his heart and soul into making an album. Yet his obsessive type A personalty makes him unable to compromise with the recording company, thus the album never released. After this downfall he can no longer pick up his guitar and make music. He finds himself in a depressed downward spiral. Still artistic and needing an outlet to express himself, Dan begins to write all that passes through his mind on post-it notes and before he knows it has wallpapered his apartment in these small, yellow random thoughts. Several of these thoughts are shared throughout the book in true post-it note form.

This book is written quite realistically, leaving the reader pondering the points when the fiction Dan overlaps with the nonfiction of David. While the character's pitiful, stubborn self-loathing is enough to make the reader want to kick him in the teeth, one can not help but feel empathy. As the book switches from 1st to 3rd person the reader experiences the point in which Dan's depression has swelled to losing grip with reality. During this phase I actually had to walk away from the story for several days, as Dan's self-destruction was presented so realistically that I felt I was embarking on the journey with him. I felt a bit insane reading all the thoughts that passed through his Dan's mind. It was a great relief when he was pulled himself out of this funk.

When the tale came to a close, I felt slightly sad to have say goodbye to Dan. Though I despised him through much of the book, Dan somehow managed to wiggle his way into my heart. At many points the emotions, though extreme, were easy to relate to. His sense of sarcastic humor is portrayed throughout the book in the form of amusing footnotes. While I enjoyed the writing style, I would not wish to rejoin Dan on this excursion.

**Sensitive readers - this one is not for you, due to excessive cursing and a couple intimate situations.

My Rating: 3.75 Stars, I wanted to give this one a 4 as it was quite well-written, yet I can't think of many people I would recommend it to.

To Sum it up: A journey into manic depression, borderline insanity, and then out again.


Mary Gray said...

What an interesting thing for a writer to do: change the POV from first to third person. I can see how that would convey distance as the main character grows more and more distanced. Thanks for this review. I love finding something different.

Natalie W said...

Very interesting. Definitely adding to my wish list.

Anonymous said...

I think the whole book, so focused on the main character's thought process painted an incredibly accurate description of what depersonalization/derealization feel like.

People who have this usually struggle to describe it but Zweig does so with uncanny accuracy.

I think anyone curious about dissociative states should read this one.

I found 'Swimming inside the sun' an incredibly funny page turner despite the "oh no I do that too" cringe factor or maybe because of it.


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