The Red Arrow by William Brewer |
In his provocative 1991 book Art & Physics: Parallel Visions in Space, Time, and Light, Leonard Shlain notes that although his subjects make for “a strange coupling,” fundamentally they “are both investigations into the nature of reality.” William Brewer’s debut novel, The Red Arrow, adds another pairing to his matrix: depression and psychedelics.
The premise of The Red Arrow sounds like the high-concept picaresque narratives of Thomas Pynchon or Neal Stephenson: A debt-ridden painter-turned-writer accepts a job as a ghostwriter for a world-renowned physicist who vanishes before the writer can finish the book. Desperate to escape his debts and plagued by a suicidal depression he refers to as “the Mist,” the unnamed writer undergoes a treatment of psilocybin, the active ingredient in magic mushrooms. Most of this information is provided to the reader in the first few pages. We meet the narrator as he’s on his way to find the Physicist (name redacted per their contract) aboard Italy’s Frecciarossa (“Red Arrow”) train. Along the way, the writer describes his financial failures, his strained relationship with his wife, Annie, and his life-changing new treatment. Continue reading…