I first came across The Unauthorised Biography of Ezra Maas by Daniel James when it was featured on fellow blogger Jackie’s Never Imitate blog. I was really intrigued by her comments so when Daniel James got in touch and asked me if I’d like a copy for review I readily accepted. I had intended to read The Unauthorised Biography of Ezra Maas earlier this year on holiday but it’s quite a heavy book and I had to lighten my suitcase and swap it for another so it’s taken me a while to catch up!
My thanks to both Dead Ink and Daniel James for my copy of The Unauthorised Biography of Ezra Maas in return for an honest review.
The Unauthorised Biography of Ezra Maas
Compelling and suspenseful, The Unauthorised Biography of Ezra Maas is the story of a journalist searching for the truth about a reclusive artist through 60 years of unreality. A chilling literary labyrinth, the book combines postmodern noir with pseudo-biography, letters, phone transcripts, emails and newspaper clippings.
Ezra Maas is dead. The famously reclusive artist vanished without a trace seven years ago while working on his final masterpiece, but his body was never found. While the Maas Foundation prepares to announce his death, journalist Daniel James finds himself hired to write the untold story of the artist’s life. But this is no ordinary book. The deeper James delves into the myth, the more he is drawn into a nightmarish world of fractured identities and sinister doubles, where art and reality have become dangerously blurred…
My Review of The Unauthorised Biography of Ezra Maas
An anonymous writer pieces together Daniel James’ work on a biography of Ezra Maas.
Goodness me. What a book. I am totally at a loss to know how to review The Unauthorised Biography of Ezra Maas as it defies category into genre or style and is a complex, multi-layered and totally compelling biographical conceit that twists reality and belief until the reader has no idea what is true and what is pure imagination. Reading The Unauthorised Biography of Ezra Maas left my brain whirring and I felt very unsettled. In many ways the hypodiegetic style reminded me of a modern and more sophisticated Boccaccio’s The Decameron, or of the frame narrative of Shelley’s Frankenstein, but with many more elements and layers so that this really is a book that surprises and entertains.
The quality of writing is sublime. How Daniel James managed to plot The Unauthorised Biography of Ezra Maas with its multiple viewpoints, footnotes and other components I have no idea. This isn’t so much a book as a work of art itself and a seething mass of philosophy, art, culture, science, literature, mystery and intrigue. The language used is so brilliantly crafted that I found myself educated as well as entertained, particularly through the footnotes. I frequently felt ignorant as I scurried off to check elements online to see whether they were real or an aspect of Daniel James’s creativity; either way they formed part of his scarily effective manipulation of me as a reader because I HAD to know. My vocabulary and knowledge have increased dramatically as a result of reading this book, but they have done so almost against my free will. I can’t decide whether to be delighted or horrified by this effect.
And it is those very same footnotes that hold so many of the clues to the entire concept of The Unauthorised Biography of Ezra Maas. Frequent references to deception, false leads and the blurring of fact and fiction suggest this entire work is pure fantasy and yet the real people and events that pepper the text give authenticity and veracity. I thought this construction was brilliant.
Having read The Unauthorised Biography of Ezra Maas I haven’t a clue who Ezra Maas was, even though I did visit the Ezra Maas website (which I’m pretty sure is another of Daniel James’s fabulous deceptions). I don’t think the book will appeal to all readers because it is so intricate, so erudite and so complex that it needs time and concentration fully to appreciate it. However, I have been utterly intrigued, totally fascinated and thoroughly entertained and found The Unauthorised Biography of Ezra Maas a sensational read. I won’t forget it in a hurry!
About Daniel James
Daniel James is a writer, journalist and magazine editor, living and working in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK. His debut novel, The Unauthorised Biography of Ezra Maas, was published by Dead Ink Books in November 2018.
Daniel is the founder and editor of The Bleed, an independent multidisciplinary arts magazine with contributors from New York and Japan. In 2016, he was a member of the Live Theatre Writers Group and completed his first full-length play. As a journalist, Daniel worked as a senior reporter on a daily newspaper and feature writer for The Culture Magazine.