The Bob Delusion
What if you met yourself on a day when it just didn’t seem like things could get any worse?
Not some metaphor for yourself, not some paranormal, here-now, gone-again doppelgänger, but a sweating, in-the-flesh, duplicate of you.
You, right down to the last physical and life detail—same successes and failures, same everything, same wife, same son (who also show up in their own doppelgängers), same suddenly impending divorce.
That’s the dilemma that Robert Grayson faces when he collides with the sweaty Bob Grayson. His first thought is to run away from himself—which may be part of Robert’s problem. But Bob won’t let him get away. Bob is going through the same thing, the shock of colliding with himself. Yet while it freaks Robert out, Bob thinks it’s some kind of fascinating minor miracle, a weird gift they should take advantage of, because even though the most ludicrous, insane possible explanation is that there really are two of them, it also seems a lot more acceptable than any other explanation.
For Robert, though, his life hangs in the balance. The economy is in the toilet and there’ve been rumors of layoffs at his company, and now the separation from his beloved wife. No matter how you look at it, it can’t be good to have an identical self running around. No matter how tantalizing it might seem—and yet.
It does seem like a kind of weird gift. To be able to talk to himself not in the conventional sense, but in an across-the-table, almost adversarial way. To watch how he reacts, to listen to how he interacts with others, to actually see if he is the undeniably charming but also self-involved, childish, emotionally unavailable prick his wife and others have told him he is.
Robert begins to wrap his mind around the idea and starts to warm to it. Maybe it’s only another example of his self-involvement, but taken to a whole new level, or simple narcissism—Bob is, after all, a slightly better version of Robert, with a better job, in better shape, and more together. Or so it seems. But while he seems superficially charming, he’s also kind of a smug prick, and pretty certain to get them both into very bad trouble.
But Bob is Robert, going through the same mysterious thing that Robert is. So maybe right now, this is a good thing—a way to alleviate the pain of divorce, even a way to get to know himself better. What could it hurt? It could be fun. What if—as Bob suggests—they switch places? What if they swap (even if unintentionally) soon-to-be ex-wives? What if they introduce their identical sons to each other? What could possibly go wrong?
On the surface, THE BOB DELUSION begins as something of a cosmic farce, with mistaken identities and other farcical elements. But something deeper and darker may be going on as Robert and Bob begin to spend a lot of time together, and begins to meet with Charlie Sloan, the narrative therapist, to try to confront and deal with his failures. Could Bob really be a delusion?
The Bob Delusion is commercial literary fiction, and may remind some readers of the movie Stranger Than Fiction, with perhaps Charlie Kaufman undertones. While it explores the nature of identity and the stories we tell ourselves that make ourselves who we are, it is, at its core, a love story, by turns farcical and tragic.