Revelations by Sandy Cohen
reviewed by JASON THORNBERRY
All Things That Matter Press, 2010
After Professor Manny Markovitz's wife dies, the lake of temporary insanity into which he plunges—the water so much colder than he could have imagined it being as he knelt beside her bed, helplessly watching her fade away—eventually brings him into the care of Abis and his dog, Sister. Abis, not unlike an escapee from a clinic for the terminally deranged, has invented his own reality and he invites Markovitz to explore it with him. Seeing almost nothing apart from his own bleak and rudderless depression at this point, Manny agrees, and the three of them travel across Greece riding donkeys in search of William Love, Abis' mentor, the man who knows everything and can show Markovitz (known usually as Manny-man) the keys to a new home free of the ghosts of his past. Mr. Love remains an enigma. And while Manny refers to him as his life force, Abis (also known as Abos of Euboea) is actually Manny-man's other self, his unconscious, his id, the abyss of his own unconscious psychic energy. Together they meet an assortment of odd fellow passengers, eventually somehow finding themselves in swamps of Georgia as their quest continues.
At one point, after a discussion as to the essence of consequence and the existence of God, Manny throws up his hands.
Revelations, while philosophical and quite funny, is ultimately a very dark story, narrated by a man who, though only thirty-five, is already experiencing a mid-life crisis after the disappearance of his wife. This sense of loss darkens the pages, weighing them down toward their own abyss as author Sandy Cohen keeps the story afloat with colorful descriptions and playful asides. Abis, his foibles and his invented dialect distracts the protagonist from brooding throughout his adventure as he keeps the story from becoming oppressively contemplative.
JASON THORNBERRY is a writer and journalist. He lives in Seattle.
"The world should come with a user's manual. As soon as you're old enough to read, your parents should be required by law to give you a card that had these found words printed on it: Life Doesn't Make Sense. That's really what they should teach you in school instead of math and civics. Then you wouldn't spent half your existence on earth trying to figure it out and the other half bitter and disappointed because you haven't."
"Whoa, Manny-man, you are over twelve and are still thinking there is a meaning to life?"
"You're saying there isn't?"
"Life has no meaning, Manny-man, it has nothing to do with meaning; life is an
experience, something to be enjoyed, not looking backwards or forwards, but seeing and
smelling and tasting and hearing and feeling now."
"So here I am taking Nietzsche's advice instead of my friends'."
"This Ned Cha is a man you know back home?"
"In a way. He's the one who insisted I hitch a ride with a madman. I like to read Nietzsche, not that he always makes sense. But I'm not at all certain I would have liked to travel
down a mountainside in Greece with him."
"Hey, Manny-man, do not worry, huh? I am not this guy! I am his fool of a brother. I
don't write anything down. I don't even read! We are having fun?"
"Yes, I guess we are. So why do I feel so guilty?"
"This is a quiz, Manny-man?"
"No. I'll tell you why. Because Americans, even Jewish ones, all of us, are Puritans. And Puritans are such assholes. Nathaniel Hawthorne tried to tell me that, but I didn't understand. All my life I have never wallowed in the mud the way we did back there. Not even as a kid. My mom would have killed me if I ever had that kind of fun. I never even participated in any semi-dangerous sports as a kid. Not that I would have been any good at them. But I never even tried. I'm not the Hamlet type, Abis. Maybe I would have made him a good sidekick. 'Here you are, Hammie, here's your cloak and sword, pal, go get 'em'."