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Being Jeff Goldblum: Helen McClory's The Goldblum Variations
Hannah Clark , October 12th, 2019 08:09

Helen McClory’s The Goldblum Variations: Adventures of Jeff Goldblum Across the Known (and Unknown) Universe is a befitting celebration, finds Hannah Clark

We all know Jeff Goldblum, or at least, a few versions of him. We know the Jeff Goldblum who lightly shapes his huge, perfect hands into a steeple whilst explaining uncomfortable facts in Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel. We know him as the sweaty, smouldering Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park, a film that didn’t know it needed that kind of raw sex-appeal, but it turns out, it really did. We watched him morph in the Kafkaesque horror The Fly. We all know, and most likely love, at least one version of Jeff Goldblum. The question (and here you must imagine Jeff Goldblum leaning in to ask this of you, a wry smile tugging at his lips, eyes alight with mischief and merriment) is: How many more versions are you ready to discover?

If, like me, you answered that question with a confused but decidedly enthusiastic shrug which loosely translates to: ‘As many as the universe sees fit to offer me’; then Helen McClory’s The Goldblum Variations: Adventures of Jeff Goldblum Across the Known (and Unknown) Universe is very likely the exact book you need. Initially released with 404Ink, it has recently been picked up by Penguin Random House and a new version is due to be released in October this year with both Penguin and 404Ink, containing all the original works and some new materials.

If, also like me, you have a vague sense that you may not quite ‘get’ the iconic enigma that is Goldblum, that you may not be cool enough to join in with this sort of warmly charming whimsy, don’t worry! You are in safe hands with McClory. Goldblum Variations is a delightfully experimental work of art that manages to remain wholly accessible throughout – you do not need an encyclopaedic knowledge of either Jeff Goldblum’s films or his life to enjoy this book; you can meet it on your own terms with McClory as your guide.

She invites you to follow alongside him, or linger in his wake, and sometimes dash ever so slightly ahead of him as the various narratives unfold. You may find yourself invited to stretch your imaginative comfort zone to accommodate some possibilities, but that is what good fiction must sometimes ask of us.

A micro-tome of micro-fictions, this eighty-three-page wonder is marketed as a delectable sliver of retro-cool pop-culture and a super-cool gift. However, The Goldblum Variations delivers far, far more than mere surface level entertainment to flick through during a lazy Boxing Day morning. It is an exceptionally wrought collection of flash fictions, poems, snippets of essays (and even contains a game of bingo), that is reminiscent of the spectacular flash fiction/ fan-fiction series: Roy Orbison In Clingfilm by Ulrich Haarburste

If you are not familiar with the term ‘flash fiction’, it is a rapidly expanding genre that few will be unfamiliar with much longer. Flash fictions are works of very short fiction, typically between a hundred and a thousand words (though there are many that would argue a true flash cannot stretch beyond five hundred words), and Helen McClory is a master of the art.

Whether or not you are already familiar with McClory’s work – her collection Mayhem and Death was critically acclaimed and rightly so – Goldblum Variations should be added to your collection just as soon as you are able. Each story, poem, thought-experiment, and game will softly blend your reality with the lushly depicted narratives contained within these pages. You are invited to first observe, without the offer of participation – though that will come later and in many guises – as Goldblum wakes up, as he “in an excitable mood, makes his maid an origami peacock”, as he drifts further through galaxies and semblances, each rendered uniquely beautiful by McClory’s uncanny gift for the delicate intricacies and sensitivities of language. “Restless, as with tears in his eyes he stands at the racetrack willing an errant fly [which has been caught up in the tumble of the horses] to be the first across the line, poor little beast.”

Indeed, such is the mystery and magic of these microcosms of human (and other) experience that explode across the pages, that the sudden moments of quiet, lyrical prose cannot fail to soothe a reader’s giddy heart: “… hitching from habitation to habitation across Russia, Jeff Goldblum is filled with a sense of freedom, but also deep unease. His pockets are full of dusty balloons and lollipops. He keeps hearing bees.” It is within these moments that the gossamer layer of the ludicrous which coats such work gives way to something much deeper and makes this body of work the fulfilling collection it is.

If you are still not convinced, I suggest you look up the YouTube video of Jeff Goldblum, yes, the real living and breathing man himself, reading from Goldblum Variations at an event last year. If it is good enough for Goldblum …

Seriously, take a gamble on this book. It is a befitting celebration of a remarkable actor via a thought-provoking odyssey of make-believe from one of the most remarkable emerging literary talents the UK has to offer.

Helen McClory’s The Goldblum Variations: Adventures of Jeff Goldblum Across the Known (and Unknown) Universe is published by 404 Ink