Lance Olsen’s Calendar of Regrets is, to quote the back of the book, “a wildly inventive and visually rich collage of twelve interconnected narratives , one for each month of the year, all pertaining to notions of travel-through time, space, narrative, and death.” Indeed it is that and more.
The first narrative begins in September, followed by an October one, and so on, until 256 pages later when the months begin to go in reverse order. These narratives, which randomly skip centuries and years, are connected by a name, a common event, or a character who spans more than one storyline. Olsen constructs another bridge by using the sentence fragment that concludes one chapter as the starting point of the next one.
Calendar begins and ends with the ruminations of the medieval painter Hieronymous Bosch in the hours after he has seemingly been poisoned. The book then jumps the centuries to depict Dan Rather in the hours before he was assaulted by Kenneth Tager in 1986. The book then proceeds with narratives concerning mythological figures, radical Christian suicide bombers, a pirate radio station host broadcasting from the Salton Sea, a family hijacked by a pretty girl with a bomb,a backpacking journalist in Southeast Asia, a teacher who has lost herself amidst teen-age chatter, a time-space traveler, a man born as a notebook, a body made up of borrowed organs, and a fallen angel whose presence folds time into a loop for two small boys. Several of these narratives are augmented by the use of photographs which propel the story forward and also employ artful typograhy.
Calendar of Regrets is much more athan a book about travel. It is also a book about tragedy. Kidnappings, suicide bombings, poisonings and physical attacks all occur within the narratives. By using these events, the author seems to be suggesting that horror and truth often go hand-in-hand and that apprehending the truth often leads to regret.
Calendar Of Regrets is a truly ambitious book that should be read by a wide audience. It is, undoubtedly, one the best books to appear in the last several years.