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Posted July 9, 2013
Introspective, like a personal remembrance of life, this book is more than diary or autobiography, but less than truth perhaps because it’s viewed entirely through the eyes of the (dead) protagonist. Slowly working towards the unseen facts of his character’s past, J. Conrad Guest’s Retrospective in Death is a languid, oddly compelling tale, evoking an era with a wealth of intricate detail, creating a memorable yet achingly ordinary man, and searching for meaning and purpose in it all.
Cross Doctor Phil with the movie Memento and you’ll have something like this intriguingly reversed view of life. The writing starts at an unspecified time after death and the protagonist slowly works his way back to a remembrance of birth, family and friends. There’s an overarching question through these pages—who was crying at the end? But underneath are the existential wonderings of why, and why should he want to live it all again.
Song titles, movies, well-known names and places, events in sports, evocative phrases from the past and much much more build up into a powerful retrospect of an era, all told in a voice that changes convincingly with changing enthusiasm, self-deprecating humor, and psychoanalytical hints from the higher self. It’s a pleasing, though very long tale, and the ending is beautifully worth the languorous journey.
Disclosure: I honestly can’t remember how I came by my copy. I heard about it from the author and I’m sorry it took me so long to get around to reading it.