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A fugue is a musical pieced played with different voices, sometimes flowing together and sometimes showing significant dissonance or different threads or phases. Michael Brown's off-beat memoir begins when he is a boy sent to a military school, is the victim of sexual abuse by a classmate bully and finds a way to make those memories strengthen his life rather than destroy it - by facing it squarely rather than burying the horrific memories. His life then turns around as he becomes totally enamored of a writer with a passion for trains and then a long phase in which the works of Ayn Rand and her followers shape his living philosophy. Later he professes a break from Rand's philosophy, yet his journey from that moment seems to bear an uncanny resemblance to Rand's own controversial role in successful and failed relationship with the opposite sex. Michael narrates his discovery of women, including a passionate and free relationship with a wife who dies of cancer and then a relationship borne out of an evolving, free spirit type of internet communication. The dialogues occurring on the internet occur between Michael and a woman many years younger than he, Mira. But they also include his girlfriend Gabrielle, who is as enamored of Mira as Michael is.
Mira is a dancer suffering from depression until her relationship with Michael bears fruit in changing her inner flexibility and endurance for complex dance movements. The characters spend a lot of time apologizing in advance and being sure they aren't crossing boundaries or hurting each other. They claim this sensitivity increases the depth of their bond, but the effect on the reader is to create more questions than agreement with this lengthy, repetitive process before they actually meet in person. Other crises occur with families and friends, natural events that occur in everyone's lives and other events demonstrating how an Objectivist would break from Rand's original ideas or just show their all-too-human foibles and then attempt to deal with same.
Brown writes in a poetic prose style with broken lines, rhyme, metaphors and similes that are supposed to elicit epiphanies in one's own life. Sometimes it works well and other times it's like viewing abstract art that evokes different thoughts and feelings in every unique individual viewing it. Complexity, compassion, beauty, tension and eroticism fill these pages, sometimes literally and sometimes figuratively open for the reader's interpretation.
She and I: A Fugue will please a limited audience who can appreciate this artistic presentation that is definitely poetry and probably sparks more philosophical questions than it answers. Its romance again will touch those who are culturally open to appreciate a different form of communication that stretches all boundaries. You'll love it, hate it, resonate with it or be totally confused by it all - it's an enigma fore sure! Try it - you may find something new evolving within yourself as surely as its author lived and relished.
Interesting account, Michael R. Brown!
Reviewed by Viviane Crystal on June 22, 2009