Seven Types of Ambiguity

A week ago I picked up a book from my bookshelf that had been sitting there for so long I wondered if I’d ever take the leap to read it.

Seven Types of Ambiguity, written by Elliot Perlman, was given to me by my mother (she liked it), but it’s thickness (628 pages) combined with the hard looking black cover made it unappealing enough to leave it where I’d placed it that day she handed it over (passing on books is what we do).

The New Yorker’s quotation on the front paperback calls it, “Compulsively readable.” Newsweek claimed it, “A page turner… dangerous, beguiling fun.”

Having just finished Gone Girl (truly beguiling and fun) and needing a new book (not to mention that the last ten books I’d read were written by women) I decided to give it a go.

The first chapter is a letter to a woman from the psychotherapist of her ex boyfriend (who happened to be so madly in love with her after ten years without her that he had, indeed, gone mad). Complicated by the perspective of the narrator and the tangle of the situation, part one is full of questions for the mysterious woman and clues about the chapters to come.

On page eighteen came a line that I found so truthful and beautiful that considering the source (a man), also a stunning admittance.

The line read;

What is it about men that makes women so lonely?

Part two is written from the perspective of a different man; the husband of the woman for whom chapter one was written. As the story continues there is a kidnapping and a big money deal to purchase Australian hospitals and frightening examples of mental illness and the most truthful account of a marriage in trouble I have ever read.

It is Webster’s definition of ambiguous; unclear, inexact because a choice hasn’t been made.

My usual one hundred page cut off (when I put a book down and accept it wasn’t written for me) has passed, but I’m struggling with the urge to put it down.

Yet I keep reading.

Is it the brilliance of the writer (and his elaborate plan) to take me down this road; to confuse me and tempt me with bits that make sense next to bits that don’t?

It very well might be, so I will keep on and of course keep you posted.

Have you read Seven Types of Ambiguity? Do you find you read more books from one sex or the other? Aside from the obvious, what is it about men and women that makes their writing feel so different? 

XOM

Seven Types of Ambiguity by Elliot Perlman. The original book of the same name was published in 1930, written by William Empson. Perlman makes reference to the original, but I haven’t yet figured out the significance (other the the fact that both books share the name).