A review of Mobius by Ann Abrams
Marianna CageIt’s not often that mass market thrillers get highbrow, but readers of Mobius, if they get past the early violent scenes, will find themselves deep in debate with feminism and Western philosophy. It is hard to tell what the purpose of this book is, a parody, a joke, a sincere commentary? Clearly a little of all of these things, and something of none of them. Is the character Professor Zozo meant to mimic Zizek; Freidburg some nod to Bataille? Who then would the nymphomaniac heroine Katherine be modelled on? Well, she shares more than a name with Catherine M.
Mobius explores the relationship between being human, being female and the sexual encounter. Far from erotic however, the backdrop of the gore, the exaggerated violence and its absurd tallying with sexual desire, appear to bring into relief a profile of what sexual liberation devoid of a care for the other might entail. The bleak angle on contemporary society, its Hobbesian vision of swathes of selfish bodies craving collective experience for purely self interested reasons, challenges the basic assumptions of the literary genre itself, that our exploration of the other, even if driven by self love, reforms the individual in the light of it. The potential for genuine abandonment of the self through the collective sexual act is put to the test here. At every moment actual death is presented as the more authentic reconciliation. Without it, the self merely returns with a hangover, and doubly indifferent to the world around it and the people through which it has passed.
The very personal and credible journey of Katherine is in stark contrast to the monstrous, exaggerated images of the men around her. The players in this grotesque theatre change their characteristics according to the level of suspicion or desire that Katherine has in relation to them. But although they are all perhaps monsters, their existence as such drives Katherine into an encounter with them. She cannot just up sticks, flee and establish her identity outside of the theatre. Thus the experience of self conquering or becoming for this woman is what society might rightly call rape.
The success of this book then lies in the tragic and contradictory strengths and weaknesses of its protagonist, its playing out, in a hyper-realist idiom, of the entanglement of the self in the structures that bring it into being, and how overcoming these involves a utter submission to them.