Pale Wire (Popscene)

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Out Smartted

Tonight, I finished reading Madison Smartt Bell's novel Doctor Sleep. Lame title, I know, but still a fine novel. Nothing too ambitious or earthshattering plot wise, but it's a fine, fine piece of work. Compelling read, really. The story is told by an insomniac American ex-patriot hypnotherepist with a dark past who's relocated to London where he's grappling with a serious run of bad luck that includes a string of dangerous patients, a troublesome pet, a broken relationship, a lingering heroin addiction and a serial rapist.

The halluciations caused by the protagonist's insomnia are great. Bell, whose short stories I admire but whose novels I had yet to explore until now, uses the physiological symptomns of the disorder to craft some masterly passages of magical realism. Normally, the technique is limited to flights of imagination, but in this case it fits perfectly as well.

Although the book came out over a decade ago, they just recently adapted it for the big screen. The film version is called Close Your Eyes (though I think it may have been released in Britain under the name Hypnotic).

Anybody seen it? I don't think it was a Hollywood picture. The critics are split on it over at Rotten Tomatoes.