Inventing Madness by J.G. Schwartz
Inventing Madness, as Schwartz pens it accurately, “is a fictional alternative as to how Thomas Alva Edison acquired his fame and fortune.” Six months prior to his death, Edison commissions New York Times journalist William L. Laurence to write Edison’s biography. Once approved by Edison, the document will be placed in safekeeping until its designated publication release date of November 2, 2015, which earmarks the centennial anniversary of Edison’s phonograph or talking machine. What transpires over a seven-week period of interviews is Edison’s undemonstratively appalling and unconscionable retelling of his lesser-known past.
J.G. Schwartz’s debut novel is a nearly believable account of one of the most brilliant yet obsessive figures of the 20th century. Divided into the seven interview sessions between Laurence and Edison, Schwartz delves into the “unfinished” stories of Edison’s life. Told through Laurence’s eyewitness account, Schwartz’s first person narrative is a masterful blend of imaginative horror storytelling and history. Schwartz’s matter-of-fact script includes a host of insidious situations (incest and mysterious murders, to name a few) that, according to Edison, are first-hand accounts taken from his nanny’s and mother’s diary entries. Amid detailed descriptions of his most notable patents, Edison incorporates a slew of repulsive stories – including his diabolical manipulations to assure recognition as the greatest inventor that has ever lived. Schwartz keeps the interview sessions moving by mixing straight-out storytelling with accounts that are elaborately played out via dialogue, as well as Laurence’s personal commentaries and research. There is no doubt in this reviewer’s mind that history and historical fiction lovers will find themselves completely absorbed with Inventing Madness. But beware: it is NOT for the faint of heart!
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