front cover of this new book from prolific author Dean Barrett (Kingdom of
Make Believe, Memoirs of a Bangkok Warrior, Dragon Slayer, Murder at the
Horny Toad Bar and many others) announces the title Identity Theft but then
has as sub-titles Alzheimer’s in America, Sex in Thailand and Tangles of the
Published this year by Village East Books (ISBN 978-0-9788888-1-7) and
printed in Thailand by Allied Printing, I will from the outset say that this
is not the book for everyone. If, in your opinion, books should have a
beginning, a middle and an end, you will be disappointed, but if you are
willing to open up your mind a little and go with the flow, you will find
this a remarkable book.
It reminds me of a picture of Whistler’s Mother I once saw (probably in a
Mad Magazine, and let’s vote for Arthur E Newman for president). There was a
painting hanging on the wall beside her. It was Whistler’s Mother, and there
was a painting hanging on the wall of that picture, and it was Whistler’s
Mother, and… and… ad infinitum. In Identity Theft, the book is written by a
character called Dan Richards, although we know that the book was really
written by Dean Barrett. However, in Dan Richard’s book, the author Dean
Barrett is introduced as yet another character, all of whom interact with
each other. On the surface it is confusing, but scratch deeper and it is a
wonderful literary masterpiece that will make the reader return many times,
sometimes doubting his or her own sanity.
The “identity theft” relates to the fact that in Alzheimer’s Disease, the
body remains, but the identity is slowly and painfully removed from the
carcass, until the ‘person’ you once knew has disappeared forever, in a
neural tangle, which can never be unraveled.
The various characters which skip through the pages are themselves enigmas
such as Lek, the poorly educated go-go dancer who is acquainted with the
works of Thomas Wolfe and gets her own footnote from the Real author Dean
Barrett who states that “compared to many larger mysteries inherent in
Bangkok nightlife, this somewhat jarring incongruity is of little importance
and should not trouble the reader further.”
And of course, incongruity is an inherent part of Alzheimer’s Disease,
resulting in the end where previously rational human beings turn into worse
than a three year old with temper tantrums. All logic has gone and with it,
the ability to recognize ‘self’.
The book makes you realize the wisdom of Rene Descartes with his “Cogito,
ergo sum” (English: I think, therefore I am). When you cannot think, you are
no longer existing.
At B. 450, this is not the book for everyone, but is a ‘sudoku’ of words
that will make your mind expand as you read through it. Personally, I
thought the concept was brilliant, though the execution was at times
difficult. However, perhaps Dean Barrett and Dan Richards just want you to
experience a little of the pains of Alzheimer’s Disease, but reading is an
experience you can return from, as opposed to dementia.