I think The Actual a great example of modern writing in that there is really no emphasis on plot and much of what we encounter are fragments that are decontextualized. Some of the players involved have implied roles, yet offer no true forward momentum to constructing a plot.
There is a collection of cinematic scenes, internal thoughts, and observations. The reader must put all of this together. We end up trying to figure out what the story IS while we are reading. And, it is a bit of a twist to see the fragments i THOUGHT might develop where actually red herrings (as you mentioned). In the end it was a simple old flame who really did make our main, mysterious character truly conscious.
The old flame theme idea rears its head in a completely realistic manner. Life goes on with its monotony on one side and its chaos on the other. Many times during a day one connects with their past—externally and internally. Even if you change locale and friends—its always inside you.
The immediacy of life hit me in the face by the end of the book. Marriage, love, and trying to cope with it all while Death hangs over head. Old relationships, ones that could have been but never where.
There are some people who have a profound ineffable affect on me. There is an attraction way beyond the physical. It is the missed opportunities with those unique people which are often viewed with regret. We all have them.
I am thankful that I attained closure with two unrealized loves from my past. I sought one of them out, and the other found me. I walked away much wiser with a strong acceptance of our attraction and incompatibility. Unfortunately, i am also reminded of all the loves that where realized yet ended unresolved and without closure. There is a residue from these things that lingers until you get so old you forget everything you ever did and everybody you ever knew.