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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Fake Bookish Neurosis: Plotjà Vu


It would seem that Tana French brings out the lit lunacy in me.

When I was last suffering from a fake bookish ailment, I thought I was a cop tripping over the edge in In The Woods. Some flicker of unintentional method acting gone bad. This time, I can't shake the feeling that I've read a book that I'm 98% positive that I haven't read: The Secret History by Donna Tartt, a sort of plotjà vu. For some reason, that novel has been hugging the shadows of my books-I-should-read periphery for a while now, and I can't figure out why. And there's no movie (yet), I checked, so that's not why the synopsis is hauntingly familiar.

I had the same feeling of overfamiliarity while reading/listening to French's The Likeness. I knew those weirdo overintellectual graduate students. Somehow. Well, not really, but the story had happened across my consciousness before, in some other form. But when? How?  Maybe I sleepwalked joined a crazy clan of snobby outcasts in college?

And thus, plotjà vu, suffering from a sense that you've already seen the plot before, somewhere else. I'm not talking about derivative plots, or authors/books that have obviously influenced the author in the current novel you're reading, but more of that not-quite-identifiable sense that you've seen something very similar before. Almost as if you've dreamed the plot, and now you're reading it. But in that ever ethereal slipping away of dreams, you can't quite remember when or where or even quite what happens. Mostly, it's the atmosphere that remains, that lingers on the edges of a current read.

And now I'm reading/listening to Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl, and I've just been introduced to this novel's cliquish crew of pseudo-intellectuals. Seriously? What strange set of coincidences has set this reading sequence in motion? Don't answer that.

But do help me out: Is Donna Tartt's novel the source of this weird plot framework? Group of 4-5 odd but strangely close smartypantsy philosophizing youngins somehow accepts an outsider into their fold; bad shit happens. Usually, someone dies. I can't seem to trace back to the source of origin in my own psyche/reading history/movie history.  (I'm pretty sure) this isn't some bizarre mythology seeping into our Jungian collective subconscious. It must have originated from somewhere. Maybe I read/saw something else with the same plot elements. Or perhaps you did and can solve my little mystery?

Maybe I just need to (re?)read The Secret History to figure out my own secret history. (I know, I know, I just couldn't resist. Punning is my Achilles heel.)


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