Affinity Konar is a master of the most strange and seductive kind of deadpan exuberance.
The Illustrated Version of Things
The Illustrated Version of Things is the tale of a young woman, raised in foster homes, juvenile halls, and a mental hospital, on a quest to reunite her disparate family and track down her missing mother. There are her grandparents, Holocaust survivors who reckon with history by staying in bed with their cowboy boots on; her father, a nurse who makes vitamins as a hobby; and her half-brother, an overachiever who doesn’t know whether his name is Moses or Miguel, but is certain that his sister isn’t capable of leading a steady life.
More than these, she longs for her mother, and she embarks on a search that leads her into the company of pedophiles, vagrant gamblers, fortune tellers, and musical ghosts. Enchantment and conjured memories become her only hope for finding her mother, until she undertakes a last-chance gambit — voluntary incarceration in the jail that might hold her mother — that will either set her free or follow her for life.
Konar’s characters, incredible, tragic, and sympathetic, keep us in a state of deranged rapture, making The Illustrated Version of Things an original and irresistible fiction debut.
Affinity Konar has invented a language. It’s sonorous, brilliant, and at least half insane; its word substitutions and trickery are both charming and maddening, reminding us of the thoughts we almost but never quite had. Like Samuel Beckett, this is literature for the superhuman: reading it makes us greater than we are.
Affinity Konar is a master of the most strange and seductive kind of deadpan exuberance. This novel wonderfully echoes some other great, funny writers (Elkin, Gombrowicz), but in the end it makes its own mark. The Illustrated Version of Things is a singular, and thrilling, debut.