WHO’S WHO WHEN EVERYONE IS SOMEONE ELSE, BY C.D. ROSE
C. D. Rose’s second novel is a book for people who love books, especially academics who love books. The story is a close and uncomfortable examination of literary habits and Rose's first-person protagonist addresses readers directly within the confines of a well-ordered form. His novel encapsulates the period from when the narrator arrives in an unnamed European city to the time he departs, having delivered at a university ten lectures on great but forgotten books. The narrator’s improvisation and choice of books, as well as his search for remnants of an obscure author, reveal the mechanics of his brain, whose flaws are more attributable to whimsy than illogic.
The story is sharp with observations of literary culture, and the power and failure of literature to change the real world. The narrator’s wry humor often shades his interactions. In one scene, he attempts to participate in a dinner conversation with intellectuals but “the Eminent Writer had ceased listening to me before I had even finished speaking. Such, so often, is the power of truth.” Who’s Who When Everyone Is Someone Else experiments with the boundary between abstract and concrete. We rarely learn names and receive little in the way of resolution, but the story is peopled with eccentricities of place and personality. The narrator is preoccupied with the word oneiric and touches his face when stressed. Yet he has no backstory and, as far as the narrative is concerned, no future. The novel is carried by small jokes and wisdoms, an overriding self-awareness, giving credence to the narrator’s wonder. “Strange,” he says, “how so often the most unlikely places house the oddest treasures.”