Through a one-way mirror, which hangs in a toilet, which sits on a train, Arthur is observed by a team of unknown researchers. He is commuting, on this train, though to where, if he is forced to consider it, he is not quite sure. He observes a sleeping man, overhears a prattling nurse and talks with a young girl, and then the train crashes.
His quest to find meaning in his survival leads him through the stranger boroughs of the city and his mind, and lost in this foggy hinterland he finds himself writing of another man in another place, a character who is perhaps more real than Arthur understands…
For Myra, For Iris is both one novel and two novels. The first half is the story of Arthur, and the second is that of Cervine, which in many ways is also the story of Arthur, which is the story of Cervine and so on. The reader may see how the events, people and places of one life are, in a bid to make sense of them, broken down and reformed into another. The problem for Arthur is knowing which story grew from which. It is ultimately the story of a man trying to make sense of a world he cannot relate to.
Inspiration for the book can be perhaps be traced to an essay I found in the back of a copy of Georges Bataille’s Story of the Eye. The essay was called ‘The Metaphor of the Eye’ and claims that the use of metaphor in Bataille’s novel is oddly circuitous: an eye is like an egg is like the moon is like a bull’s testicle is like an eye. A similar idea can be felt between the two halves of For Myra, For Iris, with images and themes recurring back and forth, in this way scrambling Arthur’s sense that he is the ‘original’ and that Cervine is his creation. Another influence on the story is the painting The Fate of the Animals, with scenes in the novel adapted from parts of the painting.
However, the book might suggest that influence and inspiration can’t be allocated to single, convenient ideas, and that what we create (including our whole internal worldview) is derived from millions of elements from our daily lives, repositioned in ways that leave them largely untraceable to their original sources. This book attempts to show a person’s external and internal worlds, and so allows the reader to see the connections bridging the two. Those connections are arguably the rawest stuff of our conciousness.