My first and last impression of Travis Besecker’s novel Lost in Infinity is that it is fast-paced, gripping, intense, interesting, challenging, a little confusing and thrilling all at the same time!
I first have to address the issue of trying to define what genre this novel is. If ever there was a novel that was going to be hard to place, this is it. The novel’s first person pseudo-oral narrative will leave some readers frustrated as they try to work out if they are reading an autobiography of sorts or fiction. I decided it was a bit of both, after finishing the novel I felt the truest definition for it was as a social commentary of modern life, relative to one person’s opinions on religion, insomnia, higher education, marriage, children, suicide and the meaning of life.
The repetitive style which is a major feature, combined with the time-hopping desperate memory searching may confuse readers at first. You’ll feel like you’ve accidentally re-read the same chapter twice; but you will soon realise that this technique is the author’s best way of making the reader experience and therefore understand, what life has been like for the main character Travis.
Lost in Infinity is definitely a novel worth taking your time with and reading slowly. Several times I re-read a paragraph or had to force myself to slow down, as eager as I was to know and experience more of Travis’ life; I also wanted to make sure I didn’t miss an important comment, recollection or well… anything in fact!
I personally thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated the use of flashbacks–to present, made easily identifiable in the change of font as well as tense, making an e-book visually appealing is tough but well managed here. The inclusions of these techniques provides the reader with a greater grasp of what and how the past of our main character, (Travis- yes based on the author, or so I’d like to believe) has affected and continues to affect his present and how it will affect his future.
Chapter nine’s discussion on the subject of suicide is utterly fascinating to read from Travis’ perspective- not only because of the insomnia and apeirophobia, but also the autobiographical-fiction style the novel is written in. It’s a chapter which will undoubtedly make every reader question his own thoughts on suicide, and when done with that, you’ll then begin to question your psyche; thus further enriching the reader’s experience and understanding of Travis’ life with his issues.
By chapter twenty-seven I felt that I had already fully appreciated this wonderful novel, only to realise that this is a book that just keeps getting deeper the further you read. As you begin to feel like you understand the cycle of Travis’ issues, the addition of children increase their complexity ten-fold.
At several intersections throughout the novel Besecker directly speaks to the reader. He applies this narrative form in such a way that it is neither too familiar, nor too assuming and yet he manages to pull the reader even further into the vastly complex world that he exists in.
One thing I enjoyed about this novel is the lack of whimsy. Many autobiographical works I’ve previously read attempt to add humour, which usually feels ill-placed and is a turn off; and they then have a tendency to drift towards sounding too whimsical amongst all that nostalgia- making their story seem both less real and less inspirational. But Besecker manages to avoid this trap. His story remains intact, real and breathtakingly complex.
Chapter twenty-nine’s discussion on dreams and their place in our all too autonomous lives, struck a significant chord with me. You see the insomniac parts of this novel has deep resonance for me, and that is what makes it so titillating to read- to discover how many seemingly mundane adventures of life could become a complex search for answers and meaning. Most people dream at some point in their lives. Some are memorable, others horrifying and most are forgotten and never thought of again. But to want to dream so desperately, only to have that goal achieved but stripped away from you at the same time; it invokes a deep want for something truly positive to happen to Travis.
This feeling comes not from the idea that positive things don’t happen to Travis throughout the novel. It’s more that whatever positives (or negatives) that do occur, are constantly over-shadowed by Travis’ need for concrete, indisputable answers. A truly positive occurrence would be for Travis to get some of those answers that he craves.
In the final chapters of Lost in Infinity the biographical element feels all but abandoned, and the reader is left with something that reads much more like a thrilling piece of fiction than it has up to now. Of course Besecker remains consistent in his use of first person pronoun, but the only redemption for this sudden and unexplained break in the narrative style, is the delivery of a stunning plot twist.
I cannot stress enough that Lost in Infinity is a novel which requires and deserves a decent amount of attention, so if you’re tired although the plot will get you hooked quickly, the frantic, repetitive style will play tricks on your tired mind and you run the risk of becoming frustrated with it.
Travis Besecker is certainly an author to try if you want a literary challenge, but this novel is definitely not for everyone. His style makes this a great book for discussion, suggest it to your book club, I promise you’ll have plenty to talk about!
© Gemma Feltham 13th December 2013