Sunday, December 6, 2009


I found Harry Trellman’s fascination with his own Chinese/Japanese appearance to be quite intriguing. Trellman is a sort of mystical character, with his journeys to the East and his penchant for very astute observation. He is aware of the smallest details in the way that people interact with one another. Trellman’s shifting appearance, as a Jewish business man who appears either Chinese or Japanese, depending on who you ask, makes sense in relation to his shifting identity. Trellman is a “first-class noticer”, according to Adletsky (15). It is because of his insights into human behavior that he is selected for Adletsky’s “brain trust.” Trellman looks down on others because of their lack of “higher motives,” yet it is never clear what higher motives Trellman labors under (42). All of the characters of the novel, with the exception of Trellman and Amy, are histrionic egomaniacs or other embodiments of the absurd. Wealth and irascible behavior are linked, particularly in the character of Madge Heisinger, who pours a pot of tea into Amy’s lap in order to get her attention. The world of the über-rich in no way resembles the world of the middle class—anything is permissible with enough wealth.

By far the best scene of the book is the last scene, in which Harry proposes to Amy next to the grave of her dead ex-husband, Jay. Harry’s proposal to Amy is at once the fulfillment of a life-long fantasy, and a form of revenge against Jay, who tortured Harry through various forms of sexual cruelty, including a threesome with Amy, who Jay knew Harry was in love with. Though it took him well over twenty years to confess his love to Amy, he finally does. The theme of exhumation fits well with the project of the text: the actual exhumation of Jay leads to the exhumation of memories. Unlike Jay, who will be reburied, the exhumation of Harry’s feelings for Amy and their discovery that they had both loved one another for many years gives both Harry and Amy a second chance at life.

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