Spanning three hundred years of imaginary time, and four years of real time, Popular Anatomy is set in the present and imagined from the future. A perversely historical novel this comic chronicle springs from Vancouver in the inflationary years of the early 1980s. Its galaxy of characters -- born and unborn, white and black, impoverished and professional -- all seek a richer, closer world against expanding odds. Debt and ruin loom in a crippling recession that succeeds the Year of the Rooster.
Touching down in cities from Asia to Africa, Central to South America, Keath Fraser's triptych is a masterful anatomy of our own ersatz culture, holding out some hope of a grand unity through the history of one Canadian city and its increasingly interwoven protagonists.
Dwight Irving is a travel agent who loathes travel, but who finds this no impediment to fabricating a travel empire of advice and packaged trips through his highly leveraged company, Herodotus Tours. His foster charge, Aloysius, is a brilliant punk-rock orphan from Bombay, with an earring and purple hair, whose clambering entrepreneurial spirit brings him to trial for trafficking in refugees. A doctor of chiropractic, Bartlett Day, friend and housemate to the Irvings, is a wide and ironic traveller, visitor of bone caches from Calcutta to Kampala, Phnom Penh to Lima. He is a man disillusioned with his quack profession, yet in deep sympathy with his dislocated patients at home.
Meditating on time and place, home and abroad, in quest of unifying metaphors in an illusory world, Popular Anatomy is science fiction in the deepest sense. Plot inflates here like Creation itself, contracting finally to reconcile fiction and history in a novel of thematic dexterity and virtuoso storytelling.
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