The Illustrated Version of Things

Versionofthings-200A. D. James reviews former 3QD writer Affinity Konar's novel The Illustrated Version of Things in T. Sky Reviews and Interviews:

Affinity Konar’s debut novel opens with a mentally-unbalanced young woman being released from an institution because she has just turned eighteen. She moves back in with her aged grandparents and, desperate for a normal life, quickly sets about reassembling her scattered family, starting with her half-brother and her father. She then undertakes a lengthy search for her runaway mother, although her attention soon enough wavers, causing the tenuous quest narrative to drift in and out. (The middlemost chapters more or less drop the plot and read instead like a string of short stories, although this is hardly a complaint: they’re good short stories.)

The overall missing-family arc, however, is of secondary importance. What really drives Konar’s novel is unrelenting wordplay: her restless narrator just can’t leave language alone. Her descriptions and expositions collage diverse types of illogic and jokey rhetoric: surrealistic word salad, parataxis, nonsense poetry, absurdist reductions, malapropisms, metonymy, twee riddles, cartoonish depictions of appalling behavior—and, occasionally, pitch-perfect imitations of Groucho Marx: “The magazine leads me to a neighborhood where people glare over their rosebushes for recreation.”

Compounding the narrator’s own verbal evasiveness is the fact the characters around her speak only in obstructions, constantly arguing and stonewalling by means of one-ups and puns.