Tag Archives: Gabriel Blackwell


“…the forger… [produces] what the archaeologist or historian is already looking for, artifacts or documents quite familiar and a little strange. The familiarity makes the work meaningful, and the strangeness makes it valuable.”–Hillel Schwartz, The Culture of the Copy, quoted in Gabriel Blackwell, Madeleine E.

“It’s clear that Vertigo isn’t really about what it appears to be about. But, what it really is about isn’t entirely clear.”–G. Smalley

Madeleine E.

This is a book about a writer named Gabriel Blackwell who is writing a book about Vertigo. Just as he begins, he learns that his contract as an associate professor of creative writing will not be not renewed. He finds himself distracted and anxious, suddenly dependent on his wife’s income to survive. After he has already started working on the book, the 2012 Sight and Sound poll unexpectedly naming Vertigo the critics’ favorite film of all time comes out. His agent insists that he needs to take advantage of the fact that he has a head start on the flood of books about to come out on the film, which makes him even more nervous about the project.

But the writer still does not have a handle on what he wants to do with the material. While doing his research he has collected a tremendous amount of quotes about the movie, direct quotes from Alfred Hitchcock and Kim Novak, interpretations from critics, and indirectly related thoughts from writers discussing themes that also appear in Vertigo. He intersperses these quotations with his own reflections about the film, but the result still does not seem right. In a stroke of inspiration, he invents (or does he?) a story about a double; about seeing another Gabriel Blackwell’s name pop up on the Internet, a man who is also a writer but who has written books our Gabriel Blackwell did not write. He travels to San Francisco and is shaken when he sees a man there who looks exactly like him. He talks about the stress his marriage is under, and admits to following his wife and spying on her from a distance when she leaves for work. Sometimes, the autobiographical parts of the book appear to contradict each other. At times he has a wife, at times a girlfriend, and we are not entirely sure if these sets of memories come from two different times in his life, or if they are written by two different Gabriel Blackwells, each of whom is working on a book about Vertigo. He includes several synopses of a book called Madeleine E. (sometimes titled Vertigo Vertigo Vertigo), sketches of novels that were never written, mysterious stories about detectives and screenwriters and mistaken identities and deception, tales that read like magical realist parables. In the end, Blackwell abandons writing and becomes a paralegal.

Or so he tells us. The whole thing could be made up. Or true.

Gabriel Blackwell’s Madeleine E. is a bravely experimental work; a Continue reading BOOK REVIEW: “MADELEINE E.” (2016, GABRIEL BLACKWELL)