I’m obsessed with the complete strangeness that is Same Same. Imagine a city built in the middle of a desert, populated entirely by people who are SO passionate about their incredibly specific interests that they can barely speak to other people. Now, imagine those people are allowed to spend every minute of the day pursuing their passion projects on someone else’s dime. You’d get a strange crowd to be sure, and it makes for satisfying people watching.
This is an incredibly imaginative microcosm, with narration by a fascinating character. One minute, our protagonist is staring at the horizon, contemplating the meaning of life and any number of deep thoughts. The next, he’s watching a woman whose months-long project is covering her entire body in string and walking around. Thoughts continue to devolve as the book progresses and our protagonist begins to lose himself.
The biggest surprise was the stream of consciousness style of writing, reminiscent of Virginia Woolf. The language becomes unhinged, the diagrams and footnotes more frequent, and it’s as though we are seeing into his strained, panicked mind. The style gives us a raw look at the creative process and the strain it can have on a passionate individual. Freedom to create comes with pressure to produce and the stressors are abundantly clear.
Finally, Mendelsund’s expertise at describing vivid settings is on display, guiding your imagination on diversions through the institute and the neighboring city. The desert is all around, acting as a metaphor for the intellectual stranded in his own mind. Ideas are vast, possible methods are infinite, and each step further into the desert of indecision leads our protagonist closer to losing himself entirely.
NOTE: I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest, unbiased review.
By Peter Mendelsund
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