I had another fun read from Andrew Crumey, this time it was Mr. Mee.
Mr. Mee is an exciting novel, presented from different character’s point of view, which are all together connected in some way, even if they spawn multiple centuries.
One thread is the story of an asexual old man, Mr. Mee, who loves science, books, discovering new things, even at a very old age, facing a lot of age health issues. His naivety is exhilarating, as he has no understanding nor knowledge of anything related to feelings, sexual desires, attraction in opposite or same gender, nor anything related to modern technology like computers. He meets a young girl, Catriona, who helps him solve a lot of his issues, including his housekeeping, food, but also helps him with purchasing stuff and fixing his computer. Later, Catriona discovers his asexuality and she is somehow attracted to it, and failing to get him to feel anything by having sexual encounters with him, mostly against his will. Mr. Mee’s character is leaning towards pure fictional, in a known way, but somehow the author manages to turn him into a very funny and interesting character. Catriona abandons him after she realizes that she cannot be understood by him, nor that she can sacrifice more of her integrity for money.
Another thread is represented by Ferrand and Minard, two low life French copists from the 18th century who start imagining a whole fantasy over the death of their neighbor Jacqueline, which Minard fancies. They run from Paris, live from one day to another, to eventually meet Jean-Jacques Rousseau and accuse him of murder. Their characters are a fictional funny model of stupidity that is by paradox believed by every other character. The twist of fate and luck always seem to guarantee their small victories, while they remain unhappy and incomplete in the big picture.
The third thread is presented by an unhappy unfulfilled literature teacher, who falls in love with one of his students, and plans on seducing her during a semester with his intelligence and knowledge of Rousseau and his Confessions book. The character represents the sum of fantasies of a man over a woman that he has nothing to do with, a man of unfulfilled personal life by marriage, procreation and accomplishments. He wants to cheat on his wife and plans a whole dream of Louisa, his student, in his mind, in order to get in bed with her. His fantasies are broken after Louisa figures out his wishes and breaks any contact with her teacher. He is then torn by disease, old age, unaccomplishment, and forgets the important things in his life: his professional achievements and his wife who dedicated herself to their relationship.
All the three threads have a very comic side, but also a very sad part, which somehow is reflected towards the end of the story. Mr. Mee never witnessed physical and emotional approach and attachment, which leaves him somehow incomplete. Ferrand and Minard cannot prove Rousseau’s guilt, and they break apart their life friendship, never to see each other again. And teacher Petrie finds himself in illness agony, with broken fantasies and nothing to be happy about his life.
Teacher Petrie studied Rousseau and a book about Ferrand and Minard. The same book is being read by Louisa on a pornographic live video website and being seen and then met by Mr. Mee. Mr. Mee decides to write to professor Petrie about his discovery and Louisa. The circle somehow ends with the future successor of Minard, who still can tell the story of his grand grand grand father’s adventure and crime investigation over Rousseau and his love, Jacqueline.
Overall a good and fun read, Mr. Mee presents interesting modern themes, with a glimpse of the past and very out of the ordinary characters, unlikely to be seen in the real life, but, a good extreme model of human traits.