I enjoy thinking about different stories at the same time, like these three:
The Mixed-Up Brothers of Bogotá - by Susan Dominus - NYTimes
‘‘It was like staring through a mirror, and on the other side of the mirror, there’s a parallel universe,’’ Jorge would say later.
A captivating article about identical twins, accidentally swapped at birth and raised as two fraternal pairs in different parts of Columbia. Through a chance encounter with one acquaintance, they eventually discover each other in their twenties. Generous in detail, breadth and photographs, it not only reads like a good character-driven story but also dishes out scrumptious scientific context, such as here:
At the moment that a sperm penetrates an egg, that single-cell zygote is what is known as totipotent: It is pure potential. It has in it the makings of an eyebrow’s curve, a heart’s thick muscle, a neuron’s electrochemical power; it has in it the finicky instructional manual that will direct the building of the body’s every fiber and the regulation of those fibers. But that one cell splits into two, and instantly, lights begin to go out, potential dims. In order for that one cell to become a tiny bit of flesh in a heart, and not the hair of an eyebrow, one or more of its genetic signaling pathways must shut down. The result is differentiation, a steady process of elimination that allows complex biological universes to be built. Every time a group of cells divides, each one becomes more like one thing, less like another.
No scientific explanation in this surreal doppelgänger thriller (or maybe not so much surrealism as magical realism?) In a nutshell, the protagonist (J. Gyllenhal) discovers an identical version of himself in a film, and then in more films. He tracks the actor down (actor is a great occupation for this character), after which it becomes harder to keep a grip on identity and time.
The startling ending dashes all hopes of a logical denouement. It's one of those stories that seems laden with symbols that beg a metaphorical interpretation, symbols that are sought and scrutinized mostly in retrospect due to aforementioned ending. On the other hand I'm not sure the filmmakers want us to 'figure it out'. There are symbols, perhaps, but they are not means to one clear end. I look at it like a dream in which the ending becomes that one detail that tells you 'aha! you are dreaming!'
*The book is on my list.
I Know This Much is True - Wally Lamb
I slogged through this lengthy first-person story about a house-painter whose identical twin lopped off his hand in the hopes of stopping the Gulf War and winds up in a high-security asylum. It explores the unique reality of identical twins: how they are lumped together by society, how they are still two individuals, how they are still connected throughout life in ways that are difficult to articulate... not a fantastic read. I don't recommend but by after 200 pages I cared too much to drop it.
Sparse highlights from the great spinning sphere of publication.