Occupied City, By David Peace

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The Independent Culture

On 26 January 1948, a man entered a Tokyo bank and, claiming to be a doctor sent by the authorities, dispensed to all the employees an antidote for a supposed outbreak of dysentery. Only it wasn't an antidote, but poison, and 16 people died. On this real-life case, David Peace has built a peculiar story, told in the form of prose, poetry, police reports, newspaper articles, journal entries and numbered paragraphs, using italics, block capitals, underlinings, bold fonts, crossed-out words – the whole a teasing mosaic in which what actually happened, and who was responsible, remain uncertain. (The author lists one of his influences as Rashômon, a film universally beloved of relativists.)

The writing is hectic, overheated, employing strained locutions and plenty of repetition, as though Gertrude Stein had collaborated with Gerard Manley Hopkins. (A sample: "In the Ab-grund, in the Un-grund, the without ground, the non-ground/ Here, other voices in this other-dom will speak this other-place with other-name...") It's not entirely my cup of tea, but one has to applaud Peace for doing something different.

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