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Searching for Memory’s Rightful Place in “Oh God, the Sun Goes”

Searching for Memory’s Rightful Place in “Oh God, the Sun Goes”

  • Our review of David Connor's debut novel, "Oh God, The Sun Goes"

The debut novel of David Connor, Oh God, The Sun Goes, takes audiences on a cerebral ride—both literally and figuratively—journeying within a story that could sit comfortably on the shelf of multiple genres. From mystery to science fiction, to biological place fiction (if such a thing exists), Connor flexes his creativity and cognitive neuroscience muscles to great extent. The major thrust of the book is the scientific (and fantastical) mystery, but it is laced with heavy doses of introspection and self-analysis. Few works set out to make one use their mind as necessitated by the very act of reading, while also learning about how the mind works via the layered prose throughout the book.  

The story is framed by a scene from a diner, observed through the perspective of a nameless, muttering protagonist who is in search of a woman referred to as M. The narrator navigates a map of Arizona cities as intricately as a neurological network of electrical impulses traveling through the brain. He’s also tasked himself with looking for the sun (its disappearance being the inciting event), which vanished about a month before the beginning of the story. As the narrator embarks on his journey to meet Dr. Higley, the person who presumably has the information to find the sun, he has trouble remembering things along the way—a letter from M. in the diner, his car, and his name. People’s faces appear blurry, and recognition comes and goes. Then the map he’s been using changes from that of cities in Arizona to parts and functions of a different place—The Mind. Memory, Cognition, and Medulla become points on his map. Illustrations of the new map appear throughout the book and follow the narrator as he navigates different places. The maps are accompanied by diagnoses that reveal another layer of meaning to the text.  

There are a few possibilities of what this book is exploring. Not simply writing about the effects of memory loss on the main character, but personifying memory itself. The narrator is a person going through what appears to be some level of amnesia. There are brain dysfunctions that account for the blurry faces and constant muttering. But not only is the narrator having an experience as a person, but it is worth considering whether the narrator is in fact a memory searching for its place within the mind of someone experiencing memory loss. He/It travels through the parts of the brain responsible for certain aspects of cognition. Toward the end, the narrator asks whether his journey was a break in memory or a daydream that he’s snapped out of. Tying his experiences to the diagnoses, and then adding the appendix which gives the definition and description of each part of the brain related to memory, Connor provides a multi-layered experience for the reader that is unmatched.  

Not only is the story strange and compelling, it is also beautifully written. In a kind of epilogue to the novel, a server at the diner finishes her shift and meets with a friend for a walk-and-talk by a lake at a nearby state park. It is a quiet moment that conveys major ideas in only a few pages through a conversation about loss and holding on:  

“My mom sold the house,” says Anna Lee’s friend, holding the cigarette beside her. She speaks carelessly, tossing her words into the air with a tone of detachment. Anna Lee doesn’t know exactly how to respond so she remains in a distant state herself, letting her friend’s words slowly move across the length of the lake.

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The language is kinetic, as are Anna Lee’s friend’s words. The house holds memories that the friend does not want to lose, and associating the loss of the house with the loss of memory instills a level of fear into the character that makes her feign indifference toward something she cares about deeply. The story ends with the two getting ready to head back and considering whether they have forgotten anything. Casually asking if you forgot your jacket after discussing concerns of losing access to a childhood home and the memories within is a tongue-in-cheek way of putting a finer point on the idea that people take their bodies, minds, and lives for granted, while simultaneously reinforcing the connection between place and memory. Whichever thread individual readers latch on to, Connor has created a work that they won’t soon forget.

Oh God, The Sun Goes
by David Connor
Melville House
Published August 1, 2023

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