Having read Duplex, I feel conflicting urges to tell everyone I know to read it, and also to keep it to myself and read it again, because there’s definitely something I’m missing. It’s a feeling I also got reading Haruki Murakami, whose novels seem to have a similar atmosphere of puzzlement.
Slate quotes a character in the book to explain Duplex as “the story of girls everywhere,” and it certainly is the story of girls. Of girls who tell stories, of girls who trade cards, of girls who fall in love with robots and are killed through a combination of ignorance and sexual desire, of girls whose pubertal transitions are as mystifying and earth-shattering to them as they are to everyone else.There are, of course, horses. Some of the girls are actually horses. Also there are boys, and some unfortunate and occasionally fatal sex. But also aquanauts. And robots. And a wizard.
Lynda Barry’s review in the NYT has an apt comparison to the feeling of reading this book, and not being quite sure what’s going on, but knowing that it’s something. It’s “the way you tried to catch up when you were a kid and Henry, the teenager from next door, told a bunch of you a story about his finger and a girl. Finger? Girl? What? Then a flood of understanding horrified you, shamed and excited you, trailed you back into the house to the kitchen where dinner was ready…”
This is a fantastic book, in every sense of the word. I’m not sure I understand it, but I’ve enjoyed it nonetheless, the feeling of being on the edge of understanding, of glimpsing something that’s part of another world which I’m not quite allowed to understand yet.