Ryan Boudinot. Misconception. New York: Black Cat, 2009. 224 pages.
Misconception is a novel in the form of a memoir with a twist: we get the same story from two perspectives. But this isn’t just a case of he said, she said: it’s a thought-provoking exploration of both memoir and memory.
The memoir sections deal with a summer in the late-1980s, as 13 year-old Cedar and Kat explore a relationship. With the exception of what seems an inordinate obsession with masturbation, this reads like any other boy-meets-girl. But there is a twist (which I won’t give away), and what seems to be the truth isn’t necessarily so.
The novel starts out strong. Boudinot is a talented writer, and the book is well-written, with many memorable turns of phrase. Having one of the characters (Kat) write several chapters as a memoir in Cedar’s voice is a fascinating exercise. Boudinot definitely made her and Cedar’s voices distinct. But it doesn’t hold together quite well as a novel–there’s just the sense that something is missing. And the last twenty pages seemed mean-spirited for the sake of it. Like the pervasive masturbatory meme, this feels not like honesty or even verisimilitude, but an appeal to cheap shock value.
Bottom line: I’d definitely put this book on a reading list for a writing class, simply because of Boudinot’s sure style and innovative technique. Reading for pleasure, though, is another story.