In Search of The Blue Duck by James Bloom
This is a fantastic memoir written in a unique and original style following the adventures of a young man travelling the world to discover himself following a privileged lifestyle in New York. Misplaced in the world of New York finance, our protagonist (never given a name nor title but one presumes him to be Bloom) reflects on his life in a truly erudite way. In Search of The Blue Duck takes the reader from this financial world to the escapism of the South Seas: Fiji, Australia and New Zealand.
The narrative style is what keeps the reader coming back to snippets from this book. You’ll find yourself referencing short passages or re-reading as the concept sticks in the back of your mind. Such is the quality of Bloom’s writing. While fanciful and at times riotously funny, the narrative deeply discusses elements of escapism including rationale and regret, as well as the trappings of travelling, and especially travelling with a female companion who joins him from Australia.
The relationship between these two seems unlikely at almost every turn. She, a free spirit with a lot of emotional and relational baggage from a fraught relationship with her family, and he, a quirky and intellectually observant lover of flora and fauna. Yet their passion seems to override the differences. Set across multiple time periods which are fluid in the way Bloom tells the story, effortlessly moving across decades to recall information or to illustrate certain idealised concepts.
Writing in this way offers a sort of creative nonfiction that allows a broad range of topics to be explored over the course of the text. Bloom makes social comments about the state of religious doctrine, Greek literature, and natural history. Such was the depth and breadth of the topics covered that it really took a bit of concentration to maintain the track Bloom was taking you on. However, the rich knowledge is presented in a way that is accessible and almost Stephen Fry-esque at times. The humour created really is exceptional.
As we learn more about our unidentified protagonist, Bloom suggests that things are changing. The once frustrated young man seems to be losing his curmudgeonly demeanour and letting others in. Perhaps that is the Blue Duck which he is searching for. The memoir acts more as a travelogue for the writer, chronicling the landscapes and history of each of the locations visits with an adept and esoteric knowledge.
One may only hope that this is the beginning of a few pieces of writing in this style by Bloom. In Search of The Blue Duck is a literary masterpiece, and one that should adorn the bookshelves of lovers of fine texts worldwide.
Reviewer: Chris Reed