I don’t remember how I heard about Ninety-Eight Point Six, by Denis Horgan, which I read on my Kindle because it was much cheaper to buy electronically. I don’t remember buying it, but I must have because there it was. So I opened it one night.
Whoa. Damned good book.
Ninety-Eight Point Six is a collection of interrelated short stories hung together with the theme of alternate identities. Each story explores a different case of identity performance. In one, two men sit waiting to get their drivers’ licenses, except both are using the same identity because one is an undocumented immigrant who has stolen the other man’s digits in order to try to obtain documentation. In another, a woman constructs an alternate online identity. The stories question how we consciously and not-so-consciously develop identities, misread other people’s identities, and just in general walk around a few different people. Or half a person. Or not a person at all.
I was puzzled by T.I.A., the story of a woman in a mysteriously deserted office. I reread it, trying to figure out what it all meant, but all I could get was that she was in some sort of top-secret office where she was not in on the secret.
By far, my favorite story was “The English Aisles,” the story of a grocery store manager who torments his customers by moving items all around the store. I kept trying to read lines aloud to my husband, but I was laughing too hard to do so. If I were organizing a grocery store, that’s exactly how I’d do it.
If, like me, you only get about ½ hour to read each night, the bonus is that each story takes 20-30 minutes to read. Just right for after the kids are in bed. If you get two hours to read each night, still read the book. Also, come over and put my kids to bed so I get more time to read.