Amazing. Absolutely amazing. An experimental work with a big heart. With a Zero at Its Heart is a fictionalized memoir of the author, Charles Lambert's life. Written in 24 themed chapters each with ten numbered paragraphs and each paragraph with precisely 120 words. And, even better, each of those paragraphs flows like prose poetry with beautiful language and striking yet simple imagery. I was reminded of William Carlos Williams who said that poems should be concrete and not abstract. They should use words to represent solid things not esoteric sentiments. Lambert does express profound emotions through these concise paragraphs, but he does so by bringing us into concrete scenes and moments in time.
Lambert captures moments from his childhood, adolescences, twenties and up to near his present. This is not precisely a memoir, not specifically identified as such, so I can only surmise that Lambert took real moments in time as inspiration, and these stories may range in their intimacy with the "Truth" of his memories. They may be fictionalized to suit a thematic or stylistic purpose. Regardless, they are written such that they feel honest and profound. Fiction is the lie that tells the truth.
Lambert takes us through his personal evolution from a somewhat tormented child through the discovery of his sexual freedom to his relationship with his life partner and then becoming caretaker of his parents on their deathbeds. It's a moving and sensitive story that unfolds a man who is discovering himself, his intellectual passion, his sexuality, his love, and his compassion. But it leaves much for us to interpret for ourselves as readers as well. It called me to reflect on my own childhood and aging.
Lambert's precise use of language and beautiful imagery tells an evocative story. Peruse the multiple status updates I posted with this review to savor the style and see if this book might be for you. This is great literature. Highly recommended.