Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Bed - by David Whitehouse


I noticed this book on my library's leisure reading shelf after I had read several reviews of it. I was intrigued by the story line - something I had not seen treated in a novel before: twenty-five year old Malcolm Ede goes to bed and decides never to come out. Over the course of twenty years he becomes a behemoth at over 1,000 pounds, and unable to leave his bed (now made of two king size mattresses and a twin bound together) even if he wanted to. His family (mother, father, and brother) are all bound to him in different ways, as is his girlfriend, Lou. The story is narrated by Malcolm's brother whose name we never find out. Malcolm acquires a cult/celebrity status and his sibling is regularly asked if he is "Malcolm Ede's brother" by strangers, and so it is by this he is identified in the story.

The non-linear narration alternates between one particular day, the seven thousand four hundred and eighty-third of Malcolm's self-imposed confinement, and descriptions of Malcolm and his brother's pasts, both prior to, and following, Malcolm's decision. Through this we see some insight into both men's psyches, as well as their parents', and learn that the narrator has more "selves" than simply that of "Malcolm Ede's brother".

Library was used as metaphor in this book, and only one time. As a child Malcolm develops pneumonia and must spend time in the hospital. His brother is allowed to visit the ward only one time, and is distracted in thoughts of "what wearing an oxygen mask tastes like" when he bumps into his father who "lifted [him] by the neck...He had serious eyes and a finger jab because here the building has authority. No speaking he warns...no staring....Like library rules."

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