Jeremy Rider’s FADE AWAY OR, THE ARTIST is preoccupied with the concept of ‘lostness’; that hollow feeling of unfulfillment or ennui that often settles in peoples’ lives and can result in some bewildering thoughts and behavior. These deeply unsettling emotions are given immediate voice by Jimmy. He can be infuriating, amusing, and, in places, downright unlikeable and he is unflinchingly candid and openly shares his struggles. This raw honesty combined with the large helping of subjectivity in his portrayal balances the occasional sense of entitlement that he exudes. He is an intriguing mix of emotional vulnerability and misplaced arrogance.
Rider’s prose is literal and charged with Jimmy’s frustration as he ricochets from one debacle to another. At times, the writing reads as a stream of consciousness narrative and Jimmy’s deadpan commentaries of both himself and the world around him have a comic energy. He finds himself in some rather bizarre situations and the reader is kept guessing how issues will resolve themselves. The scene with Rabbi Pinchas during the Shabbos dinner (Judaism’s day of rest on the seventh day of the week) begins humorously but then takes a darker, somewhat unedifying turn which is unexpected, and serves as a commentary on the acceptance of religion. The morning after the drunken evening when Aaron (one of Jimmy’s closest friends) casually reveals what really happened is amusing yet, again, neatly counteracted with an uncomfortable truth that feels voyeuristic to read.
Jimmy’s other close-knit coterie of friends include Lincoln, Debbie and Jodie and they are all well-depicted and relatable, especially Alpha-male, Aaron. The dialogue between Lincoln and Jimmy is particularly natural and poignant. Although his friends are clearly concerned by Jimmy’s behavior, they do not indulge him. Their conversations and opinions help the reader gain a little more context and add a touch of foreshadowing. The burgeoning relationship with Ally is sensitively written and is one of the few areas in the book where the pace is quite relaxed. Jimmy’s attitude towards her is exasperating but fits with his overall personality. It’s blatantly obvious to the reader that a large proportion of Jimmy’s problems may well be solved by Ally but annoyingly, Jimmy is completely unable to see this. Further, the pivotal ‘Night of the Cairns’ chapter is both baffling and profound, and should have been introduced a little earlier and developed further. It takes the novel into deeper territory and requires more attention. The ending, although inviting the reader to exercise their imagination, is a little too neat, and consequently slightly unsatisfactory. There are unfinished elements in FADE AWAY, but this does leave the distinct possibility of a further novel.
FADE AWAY OR, THE ARTIST is an entertaining, thought-provoking little novel that confronts and explores serious issues with wry, observational humor.
~Rose Auburn for IndieReader