This insightful, multilayered hybrid challenges genre and narrative in its meditations on literature, philosophy, pop culture, trauma, gender, being, and the nature of time.
In a fictional narrative spanning 2010 to 2016, Lev Ockenshaw is ditched on a date by a terrible boy, argues and makes up with his friend Stanley, fields an email threat to the security camera business where he works with his friend Aparna, and wrestles with a ghost who died in 1900.
Into this surface narrative are woven musings on literature, culture, history, and metaphysics that feel like eavesdropping on the mind of the author, an effect substantiated by various footnotes that identify his sources. The points of reference range widely; Kierkegaard, the Muppets, and Elvis all appear on the same page, while mentions of Beowulf, cicadas, the Velveteen Rabbit, and Alice in Wonderland eventually knit themselves into poignant metaphors.
Lev’s real concerns are identity and reality, which for him are constructed by being Jewish, transgender, bi-lingual, and suffering what he calls “speculirium”—the seeing of spirits—a condition which, after an apparent suicide attempt, is resolved by pills that lay to rest the ghost of the author whose biography Lev has been attempting to write.
The book consists of short segments arranged in two columns on each page, with occasional illustrations. JFK haunts the text; the title refers to the 26-second Zapruder clip of the Kennedy assassination, frames of which provide chapter headings.
The speculations and digressions will hold attention according to the reader’s patience. As a plot device, the email threat at work never seems to deliver on the terror with which Lev regards it. But the book’s real accomplishment is its deep study of what it means to be transgender in a world where categories are carefully constructed by what Lev mockingly calls the “cis-tem.”
In its intelligent philosophizing on the nature of stories, identity, and being, Most Famous Short Film of All Time is compellingly unique.
Also available as an ebook.