(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

In AMNESIA, Izzy Darlow, a young man obsessed with memory, corners an archivist obsessed with urban maps. Izzy tells the story of his immediate family and of Katie, a young woman who makes up stories to tell her doll, to the narrator. When Izzy is twelve, an electric shock from a machine his brother Aaron has invented releases his animal side into the ravine below Katie’s house, though this remains hidden in his memory.

Izzy joins a gang and prepares for his bar mitzvah. He learns Hebrew in the Blessed Palm synagogue in Toronto, and becomes a thief, later aided in this by the most righteous member of the gang, Campbell. Izzy has sex with his girlfriend Margaret in the synagogue chapel, then breaks up with her, more in tune with his need to daydream than with Margaret’s need to reveal herself to him. As though to make him atone for this, his grandfather Abba, a scholar of failure, and his younger brother Josh, a teller and singer of the city as a complex story, die in a car wreck on the day of Izzy’s bar mitzvah.

“I learned Katie’s life, and it became as much my history as my own,” Izzy reports to the narrator. Katie is a psychiatric patient in the hospital where Izzy, sixteen now, works in the cafeteria. They become lovers. The catlike creature who deflowered her returns to Katie’s memory, but the electric shock therapy this leads to makes her forget who Izzy is. At this point, he also wants to forget her, since she makes him...

(The entire section is 462 words.)