If you like Robert Coover’s The Public Burning, William Gaddis’ JR, or Margret Atwood’s Cat’s Eyes, you might want to check out Micheal Helm’s After James–a wild novel that uses new physics to build poetic and narrative tropes.
After James, by Michael Helm. Portland, Oregon: Tin House Books, September 2016. 368 pages. $15.95, paper.
“The story seemed to confirm the existence of a thing not yet named, like an invisible planet postulated through math, the evidence of bending light, gravitational forces.” The pleasure of Michael Helm’s After James stems from how theory works in modern science. Currently, scientists don’t have to see to believe. Einstein couldn’t test his theories of relativity, but he was certain they were true. For scientists, faith in formulas allows them to believe with great certainty in unobservable objects—like an invisible planet. To a certain extent, this represents the modern scientific paradigm. Helm challenges his reader to join physicists in this line of thinking by rejecting classical physics, questioning metaphysical assumptions, and dumping psychological realism.
In Fiction in the Quantum Universe, literary theorist Susan Strehle coined the term “actualism” to describe…
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