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The Measure of Darkness
     

The Measure of Darkness

by Liam Durcan
 

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Paragraphe Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction Winner
National Reading Group Month “Great Group Reads” selection

“A deft exploration of the heart and mind that offers the pathos of a Sam Shepard play nested within the unreliable storytelling of Christopher Nolan’s Memento.” —Kirkus

Overview


Paragraphe Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction Winner
National Reading Group Month “Great Group Reads” selection

“A deft exploration of the heart and mind that offers the pathos of a Sam Shepard play nested within the unreliable storytelling of Christopher Nolan’s Memento.” —Kirkus Reviews

Martin, an acclaimed architect, emerges from a coma after a roadside accident to find his world transformed: not only has the commission of a lifetime been taken from him, but his injury has left him with neglect syndrome, a loss of spatial awareness that has rendered him unfit to practice and unable to recognize the extent of his illness. Despite support from his formerly estranged brother and two grown daughters, his paranoia builds, alienating those closest to him. His only solace is found in the parallels he draws between himself and gifted Soviet-era architect Konstantin Melnikov, who survived Stalin’s disfavor by retreating into obscurity. As Martin retraces Melnikov’s life and his own fateful decisions, he becomes increasingly unsettled, until the discovery of the harrowing truth about the night of his accident hurtles him toward a deadly confrontation.

A gripping journey into the depths of a fractured mind, The Measure of Darkness is ultimately a resonant tale of resilience and healing.

Liam Durcan is the author of García’s Heart, winner of the Arthur Ellis Best First Novel Award. He lives in Montreal, Quebec, where he works as a neurologist at McGill University.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

Praise for The Measure of Darkness

Paragraphe Hugh MacLennan Prize for Fiction Winner
National Reading Group Month “Great Group Reads” selection
Library Journal “Top Indie Fiction” selection
CBC Radio “Writer to Watch”

“A deft exploration of the heart and mind that offers the pathos of a Sam Shepard play nested within the unreliable storytelling of Christopher Nolan’s Memento.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Raises thought-provoking questions about the sometimes conflicting roles ambition, work, and loved ones play in a complex and fulfilled life.” —Booklist

“In this beautifully written work, readers experience Martin’s caught-breath panic and, as suspense mounts, anxious concern about what Martin was really doing on the road when he was injured.” —Library Journal (starred review)

“Straddling the line between a page-turning mystery and a forensic examination of the relationship between brain and self, The Measure of Darkness marks Durcan as a writer to watch.” —CBC Radio

“Durcan’s scientific background is evident in the precision of his descriptions and the depth of his analysis of the novel’s characters. And yet, the soul of a writer shines through on every page. Durcan’s evocative imagery, talents for showing the multiple facets of human struggle, and seamless narrative structure are the marks of a true artist. Rarely does a modern novel resonate so well on so many levels.” —Life in Quebec Magazine

“Durcan is masterly in portraying hemispatial brain injury from a patient’s perspective. . . . [His] wry observations about the medical world are penetratingly accurate. . . . It’s a pleasure to read this sophisticated novel and mull its scalpel-sharp perceptions about what causes us to make the life decisions we do.” —Toronto Star

“[Durcan’s] work at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital brings him into regular contact with neglect-afflicted patients, and in his second novel he puts what he has observed to great literary use, creating a complex, maddening and memorable protagonist whose struggle resonates well beyond his specific circumstance.” —Montreal Gazette

“An evocative reminder that we are each the architects of our own lives.” —Winnipeg Free Press

“Vividly rendered prose. . . . The Measure of Darkness strives to be more than an examination of what it is to have one’s ambition thwarted, and ultimately succeeds on many levels in its characterization of what it is like to not just understand, but to actually experience that subjectivity—that reality itself, is determined by nothing more than the tenuous and delicate physical tissues of one’s brain.” —Ploughshares

“Encompass[es] many great issues—neglect of family relationships, aging, compassion, reconciliation, vision, aesthetics, even the stifled career of a Soviet architect—but most of all, [The Measure of Darkness is] a meditation on the limits of personal power. Slowly, quietly, inexorably, Durcan makes clear just how profound those limits are and that they are imposed both from within and without.” —Best New Fiction

“Durcan cleverly uses the neurological condition that he clearly knows a lot about to demonstrate that everybody tends to neglect certain aspects of their lives, and yet they are unaware of their actions and unaware of the effect that this neglect has on other people.” —MedHum Fiction | Daily Dose: Adventures at the Intersection of Medicine and Literature

“An intriguing and layered medical mystery.” —Quill and Quire

The Measure of Darkness seems, at first, to be about the mysterious odyssey and follies of a man with a rare neurological syndrome in which the victim cannot perceive half of the world, and worse, doesn’t know he can’t perceive it. Yet, as Liam Durcan’s acutely observed, powerfully poetic prose—which can be sensitive or steely—builds to a gut-wrenching finale, we realize that this man is a metaphor for each of us and we are all haunted by the things we don’t know we don’t know.” —NORMAN DOIDGE, author of The Brain That Changes Itself and The Brain’s Way of Healing

Praise for Liam Durcan

“Durcan takes us right into the nub of the neuroscientific conception of the self.” —Globe and Mail

“[Durcan] has firmly ensconced himself within the hallowed ranks of doctors making successful forays into literature, a line running straight from Chekhov through William Carlos Williams and W. Somerset Maugham.” —Quill and Quire

“[Durcan] already writes with an ease reminiscent of Graham Greene.” —Library Journal

Library Journal
★ 04/15/2016
When architect Martin Fallon awakens from a coma after being knocked flat by a snowplow, he suffers from "neglect syndrome": his spatial sense is lost, so that he can't visualize the Guggenheim Museum as he imagines walking up New York's Fifth Avenue. So much for his career; he senses his colleagues angling away while visiting him at the Dunes, the much-touted facility where once estranged brother Brendan has placed him. After effecting an escape with Brendan's help, Martin grows increasingly distraught and seeks comfort and understanding in the life story of Soviet architect Konstantin Melnikov. VERDICT In this beautifully written work, readers experience Martin's caught-breath panic and, as suspense mounts, anxious concern about what Martin was really doing on the road when he was injured.
Kirkus Reviews
2016-01-10
An architect who's been injured in a car accident must piece together the roots of his despair. Canadian neurologist Durcan (Garcia's Heart, 2009, etc.) continues his explorations of the human mind with this spare, ethereal novel about a man who loses his ability to perceive the world as it is. In it we meet Martin, a much-admired middle-aged architect who's just emerged from a coma following the accident. His older brother, Brendan, a retired veterinarian, has chosen to set aside long-held family resentments to come care for his sibling. The author has given his protagonist a jarring condition called "neglect syndrome," which leaves the victim unable to perceive space or stimuli on half of his body yet also unaware that his perceptions are compromised. For a man who builds in three dimensions, this is a crippling blow. We also learn that Martin has been bought out of his own firm, but he can't remember how or why. In icy prose that belies its emotional weight, Durcan turns Martin's grief into a mystery. Why was the architect parked on a snowy Quebec roadside when he was struck by a speeding snowplow? Why was there a brand-new roll of duct tape and a garden hose in his trunk? Durcan also gives Martin an obsession with real-life Russian architect Konstantin Melnikov, best known for his refusal to conform to Stalinist architectural mandates. The book's language is poetic, but it's underscored by the story's spooky mood and emotional authenticity. "Had he been in the midst of ending his life or refusing to do so?" Durcan writes. "For Brendan, understanding what had actually happened to his brother was reduced to a dilemma—binary, existential and unknowable now that the only person who truly knew had had his intention scraped clean by the blade of a snow plow." A deft exploration of the heart and mind that offers the pathos of a Sam Shepard play nested within the unreliable storytelling of Christopher Nolan's Memento.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781942658047
Publisher:
Bellevue Literary Press
Publication date:
03/15/2016
Pages:
256
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.10(h) x 0.80(d)

Related Subjects

Meet the Author


Liam Durcan is the author of two novels, The Measure of Darkness (forthcoming from Bellevue Literary Press) and García’s Heart, a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection and recipient of the Arthur Ellis Best First Novel Award. He lives in Montreal, Quebec, where he works as a neurologist at McGill University.

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