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Larsen, Reif

Entry updated 29 October 2021. Tagged: Author.

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(1980-    ) US author currently resident in Scotland whose first novel, The Selected Works of T S Spivet (2009), is an example of postmodern Fantastika whose jagged edges are smoothed and warmed over by the delightfulness of the eponymous twelve-year old protagonist. The metaphysical intensity of his engagement with maps and measurement extracts him from a Montana family romance into a Fantastic Voyage eastwards across America (at one stage through apparent spatial Wormholes) to the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, where he is due, after encounters with aspirational Secret Masters and cartographic epiphanies, to accept an award. Spivet is too normal to seem much derived from Stephen Millhauser's Edwin Mullhouse: The Life and Death of an American Writer, 1943-1954 (1972); but both tales exude a skewed charm.

The jagged edges and gaps discernible in Larsen's second novel, I Am Radar (2015), are left conspicuously unresolved (see Equipoise), an effect which deliberately ironizes its cast's ambition to create puppet-drama "happenings" calculably isomorphic with sweet-spots of trauma in the recent history of the world. But the lacunae left unmended raise deliberately unfulfilled expectations of the tale's Paranoia-infested Slingshot Ending as the conspirators, joined by Funes from Jorge Luis Borges's "Funes the Memorious" (June 1942 La Nación), travel into the heart-of-darkness depths of Joseph Conrad's Congo, where all imaginable books, assembled by Funes into a vast labyrinthine Library, are burning. The palindromic protagonist, born Black of white parents, contributes his supernatural affinity with electricity to the mix. Larsen's derivation from authors like Thomas Pynchon is clear, as is his affinity with more recent authors like David Mitchell or John Wray. [JC]

Reif Larsen

born Cambridge, Massachusetts: 1980



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