Rome

I get a little annoyed when there’s a disconnect between the cover of a book and its contents, when the visuals of the cover aren’t carried through to the experience of the story.

There is a gorgeous red flamingo on the cover, when one might expect it to be pink; perhaps not red as rendered by a stop light in the course of its duties, but definitely not pink as per the girls’ aisle in the toy store. It is, I suppose, an emboldened magenta.

At the bookshop, having no recollection of even trying to store the book’s name for future reference, the best I could blurt out was “Rome with a red flamingo on the cover”. So, in that respect, the marketing worked.

One of the key characters in the story happens to work in marketing.

This conceptual connection between the cover and the content is appreciated. It’s just that the inside, neither the physical pages nor the story laid out upon them, feel particularly magenta-ish. Present tense; I’m still reading.

A disconnection between marketing and the object being marketed is a distinctive theme in Pascal Janovjak’s The Rome Zoo. Although the blurb on the back cover suggests instead it is “a poignant juxtaposition of the human need to classify, to subdue, with the untameable nature of our dramas and anxieties”.

Mmm. The object being marketed will not be tamed by the marketing!

I am struck by the disconnect between perception and reality. Only (?) in a story can an unknowable reality be presented as if known, an effect applied by an author to demonstrate the fragility of the characters and then drive the story forward.

“juxtaposition” “disconnect”. Are these simply two descriptors that point to the same outcome? The juxtaposition draws attention and creates the sense of disconnection.

The chapters are very short. Unusually short. Written for an audience tamed by social media.

Two pages. Three pages. Two pages. In one instance, on page 190, just half a page.

The short chapters are making it a very disjointed experience for pre-slumber reading, even when reading the usual number of pages. A long train ride or an international flight would give the reader opportunity to immerse themselves in this story. Perhaps setting aside a weekend …

Alas, there are no weekends available, so it will be what it will be. This is my experience. No magenta. No immersion. Lots of marketing.

And now, no real ending.

And on that note, I wonder how many I actually remember. I wonder if story endings are even designed to be forgotten because they are our transition out of the story, the fade out, and perhaps it is only when they fail in that task do they draw attention to themselves.

….

It might seem that I did not enjoy the book. I think I did. A novel novel. Something different.

There is a quality in the writing where seeds are planted and, pages later, harvested. I noticed enough to realise that there were probably many more that escaped me. I enjoyed noticing those that I did; my harvest creating a sense of satisfaction not entirely overwhelmed by the thought of what I may have missed.

Except I did not feel that I was in Rome. A zoo, yes. A bureaucracy, most definitely. A series of unintended consequences spreading their influence across decades, also yes.

But I wish also to have believed I was in Rome.

What are your thoughts?

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