A man attempts to reunite with his family after they disappear forty-two days after his forty-second birthday.
The first few pages of 42 can be found below.
The first thing that will probably come to mind when readers see the title of this book is Douglas Adams and his tongue-in-cheek answer to the “ultimate question” from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Although rich in humor and wry observation, this unconventional thriller reads more like Kobo Abe or even Thomas Pynchon than it does Douglas Adams. Centered on the quest of George Olson to find his missing wife and daughter, the novel quickly moves away from standard thriller fare into a kind of total paranoid immersion, as Olson's finds himself trying to navigate a baffling but compellling surrealistic landscape. For those looking for a formulaic, easy-to-follow crime novel, this isn’t it. The book is a meandering, infuriating, and ultimately wonderful journey that lands its main character—as well as its readers—on strange shores of mind and spirit, all shaped from iterations of the mysterious number 42. Highly recommended for adventurous readers willing to expand the boundaries of genre fiction.
— Elliott Swanson, Booklist
42 was published by Ooligan Press, Portland State University's university press. For information on them as well as a press kit and other interesting information click here.
2009 PubWest Book Design Awards
Category: Adult Trade – Non-Illustrated
Silver Award 42 by M. Thomas Cooper
Ooligan Press (Portland, OR)
ISBN: 978-1-93201024-4, $16.95
Editors: Ooligan Editing Group; Kylin Larson, Senior Editor
Designers: Cliff N. Hansen (interior), Rachel S. Tobie (cover)
Production Manager: Abbey Gaterud
Photographer: Gary Cowles
Printer/Bindery: United Graphics, Inc.
The first chapter of 42
“The past is never what it was when it was the present.”
—James Quincey O’Keefe
The Ballad of Low Tide
Curious words to write to one’s self? Perhaps. Though is it not more curious to attempt to write a recollection, a recounting, of the past so the present may be understood enough to have a future? Perhaps even a future disengaged from whence the past was taking me, guiding me.
Does that make sense? I think it does. I hope it does.
First, let me begin by committing myself to honesty: I do hereby swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. I will not waver when I must write about myself, “George Thomas Olson has once again claimed another lunch at Carafe with Charles as a business expense.” Or, “Is it possible to differentiate sanity from insanity if one is insane?” Or, more to the point, “I am in great fear of not being a better husband, a better father, than I was.”
Though this recollection is sure to be a daunting task, I have a memento, a lone one, taped to one of the surrounding whitewashed walls. I plan on using it, using it for inspiration.
It’s an old photo of me as a child. I must be two-ish. My parents took me on a road trip through the southwest, even into Mexico. In the picture, I’m as dirty and unkempt as a beggar’s child. I seem to be holding something small, precious, and magical, at least based on the reverent curve of my hands. You can’t see the object. And I, unfortunately, don’t remember what it was. But there’s some talisman, distinctly there. The look on my face is an odd mixture of guilt and elation. Behind me, taking up the entire background, is my parents’ car, a dusty, lime-green Volkswagen bug. The license plate, YHW 423, like a curious halo, shimmers above my head.
I also hope to use that curious gleam in the child’s eyes to illuminate the path I took to reach these coordinates in space and time. And, honestly, how do I know that was me, when I am what I am now?
And who am I now? Where am I now?
Easy questions if I wanted easy answers. For I would simply say: I am on an island, in a white room overlooking the sea, writing and ignoring the mesmerizing voices of the Sirens. I’m not looking for easy answers, though. In this recollection I quest for something more ephemeral—the truth. Perhaps that’s what the child once held? Perhaps. Perhaps not.
Are you ready to begin? I think I am. I hope I am.
As the sage Lao Tzu once said, “A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” So, I assume the longest story, and for that matter the shortest, begins with the first word. And the first word to this story, my story, our story, is “bougainvillea.”
No, actually, it’s something much more disturbing than that. It’s “destiny.”
THE FIRST INCIDENT: Saturday, March 20, 2004
“Destiny?” I ask my daughter quizzically. Not because I wasn’t familiar with the concept. I was; I was simply curious why an eight-year-old would be asking, particularly at the end of a frozen food aisle in aPortland,Oregon, Costco.
“Yes,” Mirabella says, nodding her dark tresses, “destiny.”
“Why?” I ask suspiciously, sure she’s got some wicked eight-year-old subterfuge hidden behind her mother’s brilliant brown eyes.
“Because Momma said you and she were destined to be together. So, it’s destiny to be here.” She, I think, means “born” and not “at the end of a frozen-food aisle in aPortland,Oregon, Costco.”
“Oh, I see.” I glance down the crowded aisle to where a woman dressed in running shoes, black sweat pants and top, dark hair pulled through a baseball cap, searches for salmon fillets. Francesca, my wife, Mirabella’s mother, turns her dark eyes toward us and smiles. She gives a thumbs-up and dives between two carts to grip the silver handle of a freezer door. Quickly she opens it, withdraws two packages of salmon fillets, and ducks back into the chaotic flow of seething shoppers.
I watch her gradually make her way toward us.
“Destiny, Mirabella, is. . . .” Already my explanation tastes sour and stale. I’m sure it has everything to do with my clandestine meeting that morning with X.
“Honey, I’m heading off to work for an hour or two,” I hollered, almost through the door of our museum-immaculate home. “Going to try and get caught up on the shareholders’ brochure. Okay?” I work in The Black Box, a building downtown at the corner of Third and Market. The insurance company I work for is on the seventeenth floor. We cover everything, from homeowners to life to health to travel to pets. We like to say, “God won’t, but we will.” An inside joke about assurances in life—the only two supposedly being death and taxes. My company will insure anything between those two, between death and taxes.
I run the publications department for the entire company, nationwide. The overseas branches take care of their own materials. Too much can be lost in translation, particularly between British and English, or, as they say, “Americane.” That’s another stupid little joke we have. Anyway, I had my car key in hand and Francesca was de-hairing the couch with one of those hair-removal–roller-things.
“Okay,” she said from the living room, running the roller over and over the couch. She peeled a hair-covered strip off. “But you can be back by one to watch Mirabella? ¿Sí? The ladies, we are going for a little run. Okay?”
“Sure. Oh, are we still going to Costco?”
“Later. After the run.”
“Right. I’ll be back by one.” And I left. And instead of going to work, instead of working on the preliminary proofs for the shareholders’ brochure, I went to X’s loft.