While there isn’t even one impossible thing in “The Vision,” by Jonathan Lethem, it has plenty of strangeness to offer. It begins with the narrator, Joel Porush, invoking grade school kickball in all its nubbly red glory. In the midst of things is his classmate, Adam Cressner, who admires the Vision so much he wears a cape and colors his face red. Something ain’t right about that boy.
Joel meets Adam again as adults, and there’s still something that ain’t quite right about Adam. When Joel re-introduces himself, Adam says,
Possibly I remember you.
He don’t have a girlfriend, but a “paramour,” Roberta Jar. And he invites Joel over to play Mafia.
I enjoyed watching Joel trying to play, mostly because I’ve been suckered into trying to play it online, and I think I managed to do even worse than Joel does. Annoyed by the game, Joel doesn’t like the way Adam and Roberta control things. So in the second stage of the party, Joel proposes I Never. He plays cagily, with an unpleasant air of superiority. The more Joel tries to take Adam down, the more his forays go astray. In the end, Joel gets in his dig at Adam, but he doesn’t get the girl. And I didn’t think he deserved to.
What struck me about this story was how I found myself emotionally involved from beginning to end, despite the lack of things I usually expect to enjoy in a story. While I didn’t like the characters, they were interesting. There was no action, not even a shouting match. There were no cool ideas or neat magic. The story just gets you deep inside the heads of other people and that’s strange enough.