The book embodies the characters’ identity struggles by exploring its own visual identity, trying on many designs. Some sections include blood stained pages to complement surgical procedures; others feature illustrations that bring to life concrete items that play roles in the featured narratives. It is a book as vulnerable as flesh and human emotion. It is unnerving and brilliant how the text performs in human ways, figuring out who it is by exploring identities and altering itself from epistolary novel to bolded text of insanity; from archived medical records to excerpts of journaled narration and more. If readers are not already captivated by the characters, they will be by the physical pages of the book.
These constant changes in design and genre provide a means for close reading that helps draws attention to Navab’s use of synthetic text to address both his characters and audience. We read, “We tugged on your heartstring today” after the protagonist’s love for his dead medical subject is revealed and our hearts are prodded. We read, “You are now so open to me … There are things in store for you,” as the text asks its readers to join it in its explorations. This proposal is like an admission ticket to a dark carnival ride—step right in, no refund, no safe word. And Navab only confirms our decision to read a powerful and whip-lashing piece when the wheels of the cart spins—“Not until then did I realize the undertaking we had commenced.”
without anesthesia is a work that will not disappoint, forcing readers to relive their lives with recognition to the identities we have subscribed to and questioning what it means to be our authentic selves.