Aug ’09
7:00 pm

A WILDY IMAGINATIVE COMEDY ABOUT A MAN WHOSE LIFE HAS BEEN RUINED BY A ROGUE FBI AGENT…AND WHAT UNCOVERING THAT PLOT MAY MEAN In the sixties Jeffrey Parker briefly attended an antiwar rally. He wasn’t all that interested, listened to a few speeches, and went home…and nothing was ever the same. In this wildly comic debut novel, Parker’s brief dalliance is the beginning of the end. He never lands a decent job. Girlfriends never stick around. He has terrible stretches of bad luck, and is the unwitting victim of just plain bizarre occurrences: once, the final page in every one of the books in his library is removed. Then Parker discovers that he’s the victim of a government plot—like the FBI’s real-life COINTELPRO, set up to harass and surveil sixties peace activists—and the obsession of a rogue FBI agent who just won’t give up. This outrageously imaginative debut is reminiscent of John Kennedy Toole’s explosive out of-nowhere farce, A Confederacy of Dunces. Part thriller, part national tragedy, and all hysterical comedy, it is devilishly entertaining even as it forces Parker, and readers, to uncover the truth not only about their country, but about themselves.

The Blindfold Test was inspired, according to author Barry Schechter, by his meetings with two people: The first was someone who claimed to have been a victim of the COINTELPRO program, “It sounded as if the harassment had amounted to a lot of very nasty practical jokes,” Schechter notes. His second inspiring encounter was “soon after that, with a woman who told me that one time, after she had cracked open a fresh egg, a perfect, white sphere about two thirds the size of a golf ball plopped out … and at that point I started thinking about how strange the life of somebody with a long-term practical joker controlling things might look. It would become very hard to distinguish between the conspiracy and the genuine oddness of everyday life.” And that, says Schechter, “is when I knew I had a novel.”

BARRY SCHECHTER is a lifelong resident of Chicago. He has written for the Paris Review, the Chicago Tribune, and the Chicago Review. This is his first novel.

“Reading The Blindfold Test is a new and radical pleasure. Barry Schechter regards the dirty tricks with which life undoes his protagonist—the nightmare neighbors and prodigious happenings—with a kind of glee. We are reminded that Kafka was supposed to have held his sides laughing while he read friends his stories.” —Lore Segal, author of Shakespeare’s Kitchen “The Blindfold Test is a beautiful and terrifying pleasure, a metaphysically witty novel rich with melancholy joie de vivre.” —Matthew Sharpe, author of The Sleeping Father