Tuesday, March 15, 2016

14. The Dissolution of Nicholas Dee

Is Daylight Savings Time kicking anyone else's ass?

Oh, man, it has killed me the past few days at work. I'm so glad it's finally my Friday, and I can get some sleep, focus on my reading, and get a few blog posts in. I'm also catching up with my roommate (he's lived here two weeks), which is making my blogging go slower than I want it to.

But that could also be because book 14 isn't exactly my favorite of Project 84. It took me about a month to get through, which is already not a great sign, and then at the end I was left with a sort of 'what the hell just happened' feeling. But, I shall review it all the same.

And with that in mine, Book 14 of Project 84 is...

The Dissolution of Nicholas Dee
The Dissolution of Nicholas Dee
By Matthew Stadler

I'm not even sure where this book came from.

That's a weird way to start, I know, but it's true. It feels like this book just appeared on my book shelf, calling to me to read it. But it still took about 5 or 6 years for me to get around to reading it. And now I know why.

The book means well...it's the story of a middle-aged man named Nicholas Dee, who is a professor at an American college (neither the college nor the city are ever named). He is visited by a female dwarf, who leaves him pages of a mysterious work of fiction, centering on a young street urchin named Oscar Vega. Through a series of events, Dee comes to find out the dwarf was his father's lover, and that Oscar is a real person, and his connection with him (as orchestrated by the dwarf) forces him to flee to the Netherlands with Oscar, the dwarf, Amelia, and her young son Francis, who was fathered by Dee's father, and who Dee had a relationship with through a colleague. The trip brings him closer to Oscar, closer to the subjects of his research, and closer to his father, who had died not long before.

Trust me, I condensed that to sound much more cohesive and sensical than it actually does.

The book is a collection of Dee's story, his scholarly writings, and sheet music of 'The Tempest' by Henry Purcell (I can't, for the life of me, explain to you why, other than Dee likes the music). The narrative becomes confusing almost from the beginning. I can't figure out Dee's relationships with the people in his life, and what exactly his research is about, other than an old, Dutch opera house.

Any attempts to figure out Dee's character ended in frustration on my part. I know he's neurotic and infatuated by boys. And herein lies the struggle. The way he describes Francis and other boys he comes in contact with comes across almost sensual, and in a way that makes me uncomfortable. But then as I read it, I think Stadler was only trying to convey a fatherly affection from Dee to Francis. However, when Oscar is introduced...it is definitely sensual, though he is only 15-years-old.

Am I supposed to think that a relationship between a 15-year-old and a middle aged man is appropriate? Is this supposed to make sense to me?

The ending of the book was almost incoherent, the characterization was confusing, and I couldn't understand the reasoning for including all the superfluous scholarly writings and sheet music.

Perhaps I'm not smart enough to read this book. Perhaps it's Stadler's opus, and one that speaks to people in a way that it didn't speak to me. I want to give it the benefit of the doubt, but I can only speak from my personal experience. It made me confused and uncomfortable, and I left the book more baffled than when I began reading it.

So, no, I wouldn't recommend this book. I'm glad I got through it...if only so that I can say I read it, and put it aside on the bookshelf. Don't bother with this one. There are plenty of other great things you can do with your time.


This was a more scathing review than I've written in a while, but I couldn't help myself. I spent a lot of time reading this book, and it, unfortunately, felt like a waste.

Luckily, the books I'm reading now are much more compelling and coherent, and will end in some nice recommendations for you, my fine readers. Stay tuned for my #ThrowbackThursday post in a couple days (I'm going to write about my favorite contemporary book, you won't want to miss it), and come check out my Goodreads page if you want to stay up to date on where I am in the reading process.

Happy reading!

Next Review: Story of O by Pauline Reage (pseudonym for Anne Desclos) (Posting Date: Saturday, March 19th)

**All quotes and annotations refer to this version of The Dissolution of Nicholas Dee, published by Grove Press in 2000**

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