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A Million Windows is a book of patterns. In its pages the narrator attempts to rescue small human markers from the broader landscape of a lifetime’s accumulated memory: recurring images and events that might yield some meaning to the perceiving self. The self under discussion here is, as always in Murnane’s writing, complicated. A Million Windows is narrated by a character who disclaims intimacy with his creator while offering up a series of meditations on the fictive craft.
Those familiar with Murnane’s life and work will admire once again the richness with which the author’s few subjects are treated. The flatness of affect, the incorrigible circumlocutions of his prose and its sense of remove from the present moment cannot disguise strength of feeling, a stainless honesty. The cod-scholarly apparatus of A Million Windows is not a joke on the reader so much as the enunciation of a paradox, or series of paradoxes that emerge from Murnane’s singular approach. His self-referential fictions continually seek out that ideal Other, the reader, and remind us that it is only through literary invention that we might discover some tiny detail that explains the whole canvas of a real human life.