Monday, February 20, 2006

Book Report

I recently expanded the personal rules of my Library Thing catalog to include all of Josh's books that are mixed in with mine (which is, basically, all the books he has already read. Unread books are in the forbidden closet of mystery and are thusly not catalogued). The excellent by-product of this decision is that his books now come up in my random book generator and, therefore, are included in my "what to read next" system.

And that brings us to Donald Antrim's The Verificationist (2000). I'd read Antrim's Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World a few years ago, and really enjoyed it. I'd always meant to pick up this one (and his second novel, The Hundred Brothers, which we also have), but never did because it was Josh's book and I was too excited to read my own books.

I liked The Verificationist even more than Antrim's first novel. This is the somewhat surreal tale of a psychologist on faculty at an institute in a smallish New England town. He has organized a gathering of his colleagues at a local pancake house, and during the course of the evening he stands up and starts to throw a piece of cinnamon toast at another therapist. His father-figure type colleague comes up behind him and holds him up off the ground in a giant bear-hug. Our hero then proceeds to have an out-of-body experience that continues through the next 150 pages of the novel. As he floats around the pancake house we learn a lot about the narrator, his colleagues, and his family. The book has an engaging and complex sense of observation, both of the everyday and the completely bizarre, that is compelling, unusual, and strangely moving. Oh, and its also sometimes very funny.

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