Deconstructing Albertine Time

Rick Moody’s “The Alebrtine Notes” presents a tumultuous scenario of characters and setting. I would agree with the others that this text was rather hard to keep up with. As the plot progressed, I found myself questioning not only the obscure details of the story, but also the context of these events and how to place them relative to the rest of the events that had already occurred.

After spending some time trying to fit the pieces together and navigate everything through a sensible time frame, I found that my efforts to be fruitless. While some things fit together in a chronological sequence, the remaining moments could not be fit into this scheme and thus, my established order fell apart. I realized, however, that perhaps this falling out between time and action directly mimics the effects of the drug and its role in the world of its users. It started to seem silly of me to even presume that such a storyline would follow a logical order, when the characters are displaced and disoriented by Albertine, the very thing that dictates the flow of the plot in itself.

Many factors that Kevin Lee attributes to Albertine in his narration actually contribute to this notion of displacement. The drug is repeatedly said to fix bad memories. In fact, the concept of memories appears very often throughout the text, particularly in the sense that everything one experiences under the influence of the drug is a memory in itself. Its interesting that upon first introducing us to Albertine, the narrator also contemplates the possibility of its users to “remember the future”. Thus, from the getgo, we are exposed to the idea of Albertine having prophetic qualities, which allow people to enter a sharpened or acute mindset when using.

The drug also stimulates an environment that resonates well with a traditional post-apocalyptic setting. We are given insight into some of the features of the setting, including the “horrible debris clouds overhead”. Here, the drug parallels the decrepit state and haziness that has overcome the society in which Alebrtine thrives. In this way, Albertine seems to behold the power of blocking out vision and distorting the true sight of things. This mimics the haziness and the .cataract motif that was noted in The Road. Yet, here this presents a paradox in that the drug can provide psychic abilities while simultaneously distorting true vision.

The ambiguity of these effects provides a rather accurate representation of the drug. Even from a scientific perspective, we are told that the drug does not target any specific receptors. Considering this fact alone, it become difficult to fathom just how powerful this drug can be, as it overcomes and influences all pieces of the human body rather than just one specific receptor of one specific neurotransmitter (the way medicine normally works).

Another feature of the drug that I found highly amusing was its army component. The Albertine trade is described as a very covert and serious business, one that even invokes a high degree of militarization. The trade is structured as though it is a legitimate practice, protecting itself by means of “confederates” who serve as the military convoy of the entire operation. This militarization provides reason enough to equate the Albertine trade to a practice of extreme importance in this society. Reading about this militarization, the delineation between real order/ government vs. that of the Alberine establishment becomes further obscured. We are left without any concrete understanding of the society outside Albertine use.

The blurring of time and order becomes a prevalent theme in the story. The narrator mentions that users can’t see seasons change. Moreover, he stresses that the Albertine second is the slowest time on the clock. This further emphasizes the conglomeration of the particulates of time (hours/ minutes/seconds) into one large and nondescript entity. But just as the drug “geometrically influences history of forgetfulness” in society, we become more and more affected by this trend. The implications of the First Addict, the Blast attack, and the sacrifice of Cassandra all become blurred into one segment of time, as forgetfulness reigns upon users and readers alike, and we have difficulty configuring these events into a particular time frame. This seems to be the only result that can come about in a setting where memory catalysts are drug abusers and the assessments of the drug are conducted by users themselves. Thus, we see that in this particular apocalyptically structured story, time lags behind the very source of chaos that it oversees.

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