The Goldblum Variations


Read 19/07/2020

Rating 4 stars

I love Jeff Goldblum. Have done since I watched The Fly as a teenager. I haven’t watched many of his films, but in the ones I have seen, he is chimeric. In Helen McClory’s book, he is the same.

I think I love Jeff Goldblum more as a personality who is interviewed about this and that, whatever project he has lent his talents to that require a jaunt around the junket circuit. He always delights, always confounds, always hints at another place that he could take you, if you were only brave enough to follow him. And there’s always a hint (a thrill?) that, if you do, despite his charm, you just might be in danger.

McClory spins this feeling into a sequence of surreal propositions about Jeff Goldblum as multiple Jeff Goldblums across known (and unknown) universes.

The book title riffs on the title of Bach’s aria and variations composed in 1741, which made me wonder whether Jeff Goldblum has ever played Glenn Gould. (He hasn’t. He should.)

McClory has imagined variations on Jeff Goldblum that made me laugh out loud, allocated alternative jobs for him to do in ways that only Jeff Goldblum could do them, crafted scents of Jeff Goldblum, outfits of Jeff Goldblum, and delivered the most perfect Choose Your Own Adventure in which Jeff Goldblum bends the rules of time and space.

I read a couple of the variations on Jeff Goldblum to my husband, and we imagined Jeff Goldblum as a Dungeon Master in a freewheeling game of Dungeons and Dragons (context: Mr Hicks and I have differing opinions on D&D – he is still committed to the game that started in April 2018 and that I quit the following September out of boredom and frustration with the glacial pace and lack of free will). I thought that Jeff Goldblum would be a loose DM, allowing players to take their characters where they wished, unfettered by any notion of narrative arc, just to see what happened. I thought I’d quite like to play that version of D&D.

The beauty of this book is that, despite these being the imaginings of one woman who really likes Jeff Goldblum, they are imaginings that anyone else who also really likes him can embrace. I particularly enjoyed his past lives, the variation that sings a lullaby to a roomful of newborn babies, the Jeff Goldblum who is a sprite in a computer game, and the sinister, magical Jeff Goldblum with his own cookery show.

If you love Jeff Goldblum as a concept and an actuality, if you hope for him while understanding that he is impossible to achieve, you will probably enjoy this book.

Helen McClory is a Scottish writer, published by 404 Ink. This is the first book by her that I’ve read, bought on a whim when she tweeted a bad review of it. I’ve now got my eye on her short story collections and her novel.

The Goldblum Variations is going to be a book I dip into when in need of the fairy dust of an alternate Jeff Goldblum reality.

6 thoughts on “The Goldblum Variations

  1. Wow, this sounds a complete one-off! Also a risk – it’s unlikely to appeal to those who are not Jeff Goldblum fans! They do exist; I’m one of them 😆 It’s really not his fault; The Fly terrified me so much (and still does) that he is tainted by association. On the other hand, I did used to be a huge fan of D & D …. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I can’t imagine it appealing to anyone who isn’t a fan. I love him and think he’s hilarious, and this book captures many of the (imagined) reasons why.
      I can’t get my head around D&D. The others in the gang are still playing, online now, and are simultaneously frustrated and challenged by it. I could feel my one and precious life ebbing away as I played!

      Liked by 1 person

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