Life A User’s Manual – post II

This is quite a hard book to produce daily highlights from because it is not only going back and forth between the different characters that live/lived in the apartments in the block but it is also able to go off into deep tangents telling stories about different former tenants or even stories and legends that are connected to some of the objects and pictures in the building.

The result is that you are clinging to a central character, Bartlebooth, who seems to link in with most of the other tenants in the building either directly through a financial relationship or through reputation. He is the one who is obsessed with the jigsaws and painting the pictures that are used to make them spending his fortune and numerous years of his life painting ports from all over the world.

But at the same time of unwrapping the Bartlebooth story, and there are glimpses that it will become a major tale, there is the room by room floor by floor exploration of the apartment building.

Bullet points between pages 40 – 105

* The introductions of the characters that live in the building continues with the butler of Bartlebooth who at 80 continues to work for his master and was instrumental in organising a trip across a couple of decades where his master painted 500 different ports

* Every couple of weeks the watercolours were sent back to Winckler who turned them into jigsaws and kept the building alive with the sound of his jigsaw

* Elsewhere there is a chance to tell the story of the family who owned the building and their mixed fortunes which meant ever greater diminishing returns from it for not only them but also for their children

* Then there is a moment when an American author arrives to research a book she is writing about Bartlebooth’s uncle who was taken in by conmen trying to sell him the vase that Joseph used to store the blood of Christ

* There is also a lengthy piece about Madame Moureau who saw the DIY boom coming and managed to become very wealthy on the back of it and several pages are used listing some of the goods her company sells in its catalogues

* Madame Moureau, who is now a bed-ridden cripple, had her apartment designed to incredibly luxurious standards to show off her position and standing as a successful businesswoman and combined with the central heating that was out in it turned the block into a building site for a year

Perec is very fluid with time with the pendulum swinging back and forwards between the past and the present with such ease it is sometimes hard to tell who is a tenant and who is a memory. He also continues to spend a lot of energy explaining the details of each and every picture that are on the walls in the numerous rooms in the block. There must be a reason for doing that but it is not clear yet. More tomorrow…

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