Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Teleportation Accident by Ned Beauman

     For Egon Loeser, life would be perfect if only he could have sex with the girl of his dreams, Ms. Adele Hitler.  But Loeser lives in Berlin in the 1930s, and the social scene just isn't what it used to be.  Nowadays, everyone is preoccupied with Nazis and global politics, but all Loeser wants to do is enjoy himself, preferable with Adele and few lines of coke.  But Adele is hardly interested in a self-indulgent, cynical misanthrope like Egon Loeser (it's no coincidence that his name is one letter away from "loser"), so she doesn't even send her admirer so much as a goodbye postcard when she moves to Paris.  But for Loeser, Adele is one of only two sources of momentum in his life, so he follows his heart to Paris in search of his dream girl, which is where a whole other series of adventures begins for our reluctant hero.

     The second source of momentum in Loeser's life is a legend - well, maybe it's a legend.  Maybe the story is true.  To Loeser, the infamous legend of Lavicini's teleportation machine is anything but.  In fact, Loeser is just as determined to solve the mystery of Lavicini's legacy as he is to find Adele.  And when the two intersect, things take a sharp and entertaining turn toward absurdity.  Written as part science fiction, part mystery, part historical fiction, and part comedy, The Teleportation Accident follows Loeser as he embarks on a lifelong journey of adventure, farce, and mishaps in search of good sex and teleportation.

     Ned Beauman's Man Booker Prize nominated novel is unlike anything I've ever encountered.  It's like a crazy Mary Poppins grab bag of discussion points and plot devices.  One minute you're reading about Loeser's opinion of artists and writers such as Dada, Brecht, and Hemingway, and the next moment you're following him up and down the streets of Hollywood in search of the perfect "American hamburger sandwich."  But it's also a novel about war, politics, Hollywood, theatre, film, religion, communism, travel, sex, paranoia, and public transportation (among other things).  By all counts, The Teleportation Accident should be pure chaos, but somehow everything comes together in the end.  Well, I guess I should say "ends," considering that the book contains four alternate/simultaneous/interchangeable endings.  I know.  It sounds crazy and disordered, but as they say, there is order in chaos.  Or else Ned Beauman has us all happily fooled!

     The Teleportation Accident is fresh, funny, and smart.  The prose is witty, the storyline is absurd but fitting, and the historical aspects are well-researched and flavorful.  And, it's possibly the most hilariously quotable books of the year.  Here are a few of my favorite "Loeserisms" :

  • "There was no flat surface near by so they just sniffed the coke off the sides of their hands and then licked up the residue.  One of the great skills of Berlin social life was to make this awkward self-nuzzling into an elegant gesture; Loeser knew he resembled a schoolboy trying to teach himself cunnilingus." (p. 26)  
  •  "To be that nice all the time, thought Loeser, just didn't make sense.  It was inhuman, illogical, saccahrine, and cowardly.  You couldn't truly love anything if you didn't hate at least something.  Indeed, perhaps you couldn't truly love anything if you didn't hate almost everything." (p.29) 
  •  "Loeser's parents had died in a car crash, and ever since he had hated cars.  He had never learned to drive, and he refused even to be a passenger in a private vehicle.  Taxis were all right because a taxi was essentially a very specific bus.  And trains were relaxing.  But trams were best." (p. 61)
  • "He had always hated that period towards the end of a meal when long gaps opened up between utterances: there was something repulsive and undignified about that shared awareness of the human animal's basic inability to think and digest at the same time." (p. 143)

This review was simultaneously published on BookerMarks on 8/11/12

Overall Rating: