Costa was not offering a biography of Brennan, not even a minor, muddy one, picking the stones of false memory. He was thinking of one loose thread: the way a life unravels, falls apart, becomes dissolute, not for all of the obvious reasons like alcohol or disastrous relationships or depressive illnesses, but through mood. Conditional, jussive, optative, subjunctive, irrealis. His life had not happened, is not likely to happen etc. A grammar of moods. (17)Feelings that take very palpable form:
He was outside himself too much; his inside was becoming a hollowed shell he would hold up to his ear in old age and hear the murmur of failure, the sea of forgetting and obscurity. In Memoriam. The shudder of Tennyson's lines. (97)
He told Mallarmé how alcohol had hidden the realisation that the back of one's head was something which, upon apprehending it and perceiving its strangeness, delivered to the subject the most overwhelming insight and dismay. But the back of one's head was not about realisation; it was about concealment.... The back of his head was what he didn't want to see.... He had bought a bowler hat and had worn it everywhere. But when he looked in the mirror he didn't see bourgeois civility, only self-deception (130)
If anxiety in a text can be traced to the finely wrought workings of perspective and a muted but unsettling affect, Castro's novella draws a long quiet draught of it.