(Reviewed by JD Jung)
“New Orleans seems to exist as a blank slate for outsiders to grasp and cast their own aspirations, pretenses, and prejudices upon. A few of the outsiders always end up lingering, holding fast, and adding to the city’s layers, despite the fact that New Orleans changes them more than otherwise, ingrains itself in them if no more than confounding sustenance. “
It’s November 1984, and such is the case with former teacher and current cabbie, 25 year old Raymond Russell, “…a mostly anti-social blot with an occasional appetite to ink bleed toward narrow sociability… ”. He has witnessed a horrific crime and is trying to figure out the extent of his involvement. These shocking events have left him unable to speak, so he slowly reveals the incident in a twenty two day journal, the notebook of Raymond Errata. The account evolves as he writes about himself, and then peels away the events of that day to himself as well as to whoever finds the notebook.
Why twenty two days? Not only did it mean something to him-which you will learn about- but it took him time and thought to come up with the formula: “two 5’s and four 3’s”. This says a lot about his personality, his OCD, like the fact that he drives his customers in patterns to their destination. “Right brain flights of fancy bound by left brain analytical ruminating on their variations”, helping his “senses make sense”.
As you can see, Raymond is very introspective and carefully uses metaphors in his journal to help the events leading to the incident all make sense. This includes his infatuation with Hannah, one of his rides, who he parallels to his late young love, Eve. This is also central to his story.
Another central theme and character in the story is the city of New Orleans itself.
“Don’t trust anyone without multiple histories or those who are responsibly certain. New Orleans is one of a few cities which attracts those with versatile lives, an expected stop along the way for at least a little while. It’s a place where opposites of one’s nature meet, organically resolve their contradictions, and find a way to coexist, if not bind.”
Pardon me for quoting so much of the book, but I can’t help it.
Errata reminds me of what I value in good literature: language that drives the plot. It deserves more than one reading, so at only 110 pages, you may want to read it a few times to savor the sharp tone, dark imagery and rich language.
Discovering a gem like Errata, makes those months and years of tirelessly searching for those perfect “underrated” reads all worthwhile.