By Harry Mathews
Publication Date: 10/01/1997
A blend of postmodern metafiction and old-style bedroom farce, The Journalist explores the elusive, sometimes illusive, boundaries between facts and the fictions we weave around them. The novel's protagonist, living at a time that might be the present in a city that might be anywhere, has decided for reasons of mental hygiene to keep a detailed record of his thoughts, words, and deeds. Very quickly, however, the project begins to absorb his entire life, as the increasingly meticulous recording of experience threatens to supplant experience itself. To make matters worse, what he records offers its own grist for worry: his devoted wife suddenly grows secretive, his equally devoted mistress turns evasive, his frustratingly independent son might or might not be visiting that same mistress behind his back, and his closest friend begins acting in mysterious ways (and is it just his imagination, or is this friend having clandestine meetings with his wife?). His ever more convoluted perceptions breed a dark muddle of suspicion, leading to a climax that is at once intensely funny and excruciatingly poignant.
Born in New York in 1930, Harry Mathews settled in Europe in 1952 and has since then lived in Spain, Germany, Italy, and (chiefly) France. When Mathews published his first poems in 1956, he was associated with the so-called New York School of poets, with three of whom (John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch, and James Schuyler) he founded the review Locus Solus in 1961. Through his friendship with Georges Perec, he became a member of the Oulipo in 1972.