The Book of Formation

The cult of personality embedded in modern society forms the core of The Book of Formation by Ross Simonini, a striking debut novel that begs to be reread as soon as it is finished. When a journalist is granted access to Mayah Isle, a celebrity "lifestyle therapist," and her adopted son Masha, he embarks on a 20-year series of interviews that reveal the moral and existential tensions of those "made to be the object of adoration."

Mayah's personality movement encourages both ordinary and extraordinary people to change their personalities and unlearn the "prejudice of identity." This change is a psychologically and physically demanding process, and the "turns" are dramatic and televised. Masha as a child is an enigma; his interviews are cryptic, and he seems to speak in symbols and linguistic riddles. The grooming he experiences (transformative or abusive, depending on who is asked) to enter the movement takes years. After his turn, he becomes Marshall, an articulate, charismatic figure on a meteoric rise. His ability to "liquefy his personality and move it like a river" sets in motion the kind of fanaticism that is increasingly intense and ultimately dangerous.

Simonini sharply satirizes society's fascination with celebrities, including the cycle of worship and then disillusionment that inevitably results in "a constant state of being born and dying, endlessly perfecting [one]self." The novel is an unsettling and stimulating debate on the meaning of personality and the nature of self. --Cindy Pauldine, bookseller, the river's end bookstore, Oswego, N.Y.

Powered by: Xtenit