When we found out TUBoEM (hmmm – shall we just refer to it as ‘Ezra Maas?’) was by local lad Daniel James we just HAD to review it as we love to support anyone local. But what’s it about?
“Compelling and suspenseful, The Unauthorised Biography of Ezra Maas is the story of a journalist searching for the truth about a reclusive artist through 60 years of unreality. A chilling literary labyrinth, the book combines postmodern noir with pseudo-biography, letters, phone transcripts, emails and newspaper clippings.
Ezra Maas is dead. The famously reclusive artist vanished without a trace seven years ago while working on his final masterpiece, but his body was never found. While the Maas Foundation prepares to announce his death, journalist Daniel James finds himself hired to write the untold story of the artist’s life. But this is no ordinary book. The deeper James delves into the myth, the more he is drawn into a nightmarish world of fractured identities and sinister doubles, where art and reality have become dangerously blurred…”
Start at the beginning
So you sit down ready to read a biography and then read a killer of an opening line:
“This book is dangerous. You need to know that before you begin.”
Not your average biography opener huh? So is it a thriller? Well….no.
Its concept is unique with the book itself split roughly into three sections. There is an investigation by James into the life of Ezra Maas which includes various transcripts and news clippings. There is a biography part written by James about Ezra Maas and then there are various ‘interruptions’ by an anonymous person who has threaded the former two parts together. Mr Anonymous often takes the form of footnotes that in one particular section stretches over 3 pages!
Written in such a way that fiction bleeds into fact, the book certainly defies being pigeon holed in to any particular genre. I had, and still have no idea of what was real and what was fake. I do however know that once you have read the book you will do the following:
- Google ‘Daniel James’ and read the several interviews he has given all purporting that he received a phone call from an anonymous person asking him to write a biography of Ezra Maas;
- Google ‘the Ezra Maas Foundation’ and note there are no actual pictures of his supposed art works. I’ve even emailed them only for the email to be returned to sender;
- Google ‘is Ezra Maas even a real person?’
I’ve done all of the above and am still not sure.
Epistemological and Ontological Questions
It takes balls to write about ones self the way James has. I did initially find it a bit jarring, even narcissist. However as I read on, I found the parts where James was ‘detecting’ the most interesting. Although I never fully understood why the book was supposedly dangerous.
I will be honest, phrases such as “epistemological and ontological questions” went over my head. I’m sure those more literary able will get a lot out of James deliberately using metaphysical detective fiction. It just left me slightly confused. In the end I moved on from trying to get a grasp of various sections and just went with the overall story which I enjoyed.
The book, without doubt, is outstandingly original and one I think I will still be mulling over in weeks to come. There are also some lovely references to Newcastle, which is always a bonus. Just hurry up and read it so I can discuss it with you!
My thanks go to Daniel James for a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. It’s out in paperback now and is published by Dead Ink. If you liked this twist on reality we recommend you try His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet. Warning with this too you will be Googling!