Andrew's Brain

Andrew's Brain. This novel was too bizarre and scattered and I couldn t finish it The narration jumps all over and I didn t care enough to see if the ending gets better If you re a fan of experimental fiction, you might appreciate thisthan me. I ve been reading E.L Doctorow s novels forthan thirty years, starting with The Book of Daniel, a fictionalized account of the lives of the sons of executed spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg Among my favorites are World s Fair, the most clearly autobiographical of Doctorow s novels, about a young boy growing up in New York City in the 1930s Billy Bathgate, about another New York City youngster taken in by Dutch Schultz s mob The March, about the Civil War and of course, Ragtime, which seamlessly blends fictional and historical characters and captures the rhythms of early 20th century America Doctorow novels are rich in character and plot seen through a brilliantly deployed historical lens What then to make of Andrew s Brain Surely we wouldn t pummel a writer for stretching his imagination and heading off in a new direction to contemplate the workings of the mind, its relationship to the brain, and the meaning of thought and memory But Doctorow s fans may be disoriented for the better part of this book s 200 pages.Andrew is a professor of cognitive science and so has a professional as well as a personal interest in the working of the mind, especially his own The novel takes the form of a dialogue with a therapist in which Andrew recounts his past as the agent of inadvertent disaster, most notably how he came to lose two wives and two daughters and how he came to hang out in the White House with George W Bush and his henchmen, Chaingang and Rumbum Entertaining for sure And sad, as our surpassingly unreliable narrator becomesclearly unhinged Doctorow has lost nothing as a literary stylist and once you adjust to the lack of a driving plot and start to appreciate the gradual peeling back of layers of thought and memory, there are pleasures to be found here But I couldn t help but feel that maybe those new to Doctorow would find Andrew s Braincompelling than longtime fans Living in Andrew s brain just wasn t as interesting as being transported to 1900 s New Rochelle, a Civil War battlefield or even Homer and Langley s crumbling brownstone. Cold hearted orb that rules the night, Removes the colours from our sight Red is grey and yellow white But we decide which is right And which is an illusion In his book The joys of Yiddish, Leo Rosten describes the difference between a schlemiel and a schlimazel Both types of people suffer from chronic bad luck of one sort or another The difference is that while the schlemiel is the type of person that trips while carrying a tray of soup in the cafeteria, the schlimazel is the person it lands on In E.L Doctorow s compelling new novel, Andrew s Brain, the protagonist Andrew is the schlemiel whilst all those closest to him end up being schlimazels.Although not technically a mystery this book is one which can easily be spoiled by too full a description of the narrative So I will start with some broad brush strokes and leave the rest to be discovered by the reader.Andrew is talented and smart he is a cognitive scientist with multiple degrees His life, if his interior monologue is to be believed, has been dogged by a series of unfortunate events Those events have left him physically unharmed The physical harm involved has always struck those closest to him The story is told mostly through the voice of Andrew s interior monologue and in snippets of conversation with another person, perhaps a psychiatrist or some other person tasked with getting Andrew s story told.But the lack of physical harm is no indicator that Andrew has not been damaged and it appeared clear to me from the start that Andrew s monologue was really getting to the edges of his role in these events Doctorow paints around those edges and it appeared to me that the reader is left to cut through those edges and find some way to burrow between the lines and dig deeper into Andrew s brain.Andrew s Brain is one of those books that had me puzzled from the start After the story ended I was still puzzled in many respects but it was a puzzlement that left me thinking about the story and its meaning well after I finished reading it.I had a visceral reaction to the story Unsettled as I may have been at not having Andrew s deeper thoughts explained to me it left me no alternative but to personalize the events and substitute my brain for Andrew s What would I have thought, how would I have reacted, how would I attribute fault, if fault there was, for the events that transpired around me Would I blame myself Did my thoughts presage or facilitate these events Lastly, and this is the key question the book posed for me would I have stayed sane and would my own interior monologue represent a memory of actual events or would it represent some parallel universe of my own creation designed solely to protect me from some paralyzing pain induced by these events Would I be cognitive enough to know the difference As noted above, it is hard to discuss this book adequately without laying out critical spoilers And that for me is an indication of the power of the book It is a book that is enriched by discussing it afterwards I do not belong to any book clubs but this seems to me to be a book club s dream, one that would create a rich discussion in which it is likely that every member will have a different vision of what it said and what it meant to them.I very much enjoyed Andrew s Brain It is a book I continue to think about and for this reason alone I have no hesitation in recommending it to anyone willing to put their brain in Andrew s place, look at a life filled with sadness, and reflect upon how their own brain would hold up to the stress. I received Andrew s Brain as a First Reads Giveaway If you re interested in reading the ramblings of a self adsorbed man who lacks maturity, then this book is for you If you re looking for a book with plot or direction, then you re not going to find it here I assume that part of the allure of this book is supposed to be the fact that Andrew s thought patterns are quirky and unique, but I believe it could have been achievedeffectively I didn t care about Andrew or any of the characters even as I finished the last few pages I mostly just wanted him to stop talking The last third of the book becomes completely topsy turvy and ridiculous If this book has been anythan 200 pages, I probably wouldn t have wasted my time I m rating this book with two stars as I did find it amusing is a couple of spots, however I felt I d have rather spent my time on another book so that s all the stars this one s getting from me.This is my first book by E.L Doctorow that s I ve read Based on other s comments, I intend to give his other works a shot However, Andrew s Brain was a total blunder in my opinion. I have tried to think of a word a single word that is suggested by reading this book Fascinating is too remote, to inexact Surprising has no real connotation Unsettling is good because it reflects the fact that the narration is of a type I am not used to reading and it takes time to be brought in to Andrew s brain, Not the book title, but the neurological narrator Insightful Yes, but while the brain takes us on a path that is convoluted, like the brain itself, and it provides social and political commentary, it is also muddled and at times confusing It is not always pleasant, it is often unpredictable, the antagonists are neither likable or horrible The events are both world shaking and mundane Maybe the word I want is provoking.Doctorow has found a new voice the brain but of course the brain, while it controls speech, controls or manipulates thought cannot express itself without the resource of the person and in this case the presence of the psychiatrist who is us because it is the interjection in a stream of consciousness.Life and death, perspectives on others and insights to the self, presidents and 9 11 athletics and intellectualism are all here in the players and in the perspective of who we are Andrew is not just the owner of the brain, he is in fact a brain scientist and the psychiatrist is trained to probe and challenge the brain.We see the brain in this as outside the individual The brain can generate thought, expand beyond the immediate reality It can conjecture, it can analysis and it can create decision or indecision It is conscious and unconscious and which is us It is a computer and it is an emotional sponge It misfires and it makes insightful conclusions It is a mind and a soul if we let it be It is the function that truly stops life,than the heart and lungs and tissues So this ride through a life is incomplete because it is streaming images and ideas and events in a way that only a brain could perceive them or at least the way that the author sees a brain sorting out the world.And therefore it is not always sequential and images flash by that we want to hold on and examine, but they move past quickly because the destination is somewhere else The psychiatrist occasionally inserts a statement that the reader might want to make why did it take so long to say that But of course that is because the brain of the psychiatrist is like the reader outside the brain that is spilling a sequence that can only come from one source the self in the center of the tale Or perhaps it is a collective mind with patches of previous existence all existence.The reader will find a mind in despair, we are not privileged to know where the story will take us, how it will end, even if it will end and as a reviewer I cannot tell you the ending I can only share the journey. 4.5 Stars I asked this question How can I think about my brain when it s my brain doing the thinking So is this brain pretending to be me thinking about it Wow, what a read Andrew s Brain by E.L Doctorow is an exercise in mental manipulation Our protagonist Andrew is a professor of cognitive science He studies the mind, not the brain Andrew gives the definition to unreliable narrator and as a result this story is not an easy read.First, this is the first E.L Doctorow book that I have read Shame on me What a gifted writer I was blown away by the brilliance of his prose, his style, and his structure It has been a while since I have read such an eloquent author Wow, I am an instant fan.This story is the life of Andrew, a man with mental obsessions, problems, and maybe illness too We get told his story in an often disjointed way that adds to the confusion I loved it I cannot give anything away but I will say that this is a book that I will tell my friends and family to read It is a great piece of fiction.Some quotes that show his brilliant writings Because of course it never does, does it, my bosky babe, for if life is one definable thing of infinite form then we have to say it feeds on itself It is self consuming And that is not very reassuring if you mean to depend on the world for your consciousness Is it If consciousness exists without the world, it is nothing, and if it needs the world to exist, it is still nothing We have to be wary of our brains They make our decisions before we make them They lead us to still waters They renounceth free will And it gets weirder If you slice a brain down the middle, the left hemisphere and the right hemisphere will operate self sufficiently and not know what the other is doing But don t think about these things, because it won t be you anyway doing the thinking Just follow your star Live in the presumptions of the socially constructed life Abhor science Sort of believe in God Put your failings behind you Present your self justifications to the bathroom mirror This was a fabulous first read for me by Doctorow, I cannot wait forREAD THIS BOOK Let me just say at the beginning here that I loved this book, but I didn t realize how much I liked it until it was over Add this one to your list of most unreliable narrator novels, or just to your list of books you should definitely read It is a novel filled with surprises, the entire book a conversation between Andrew, a cognitive scientist whose life up to this point has been one of inadvertent disaster, and a psychotherapist psychologist shrink to whom he tells his not pretty story Or maybe not, depending on how you choose to read it So this post won t be a standard book discussion, butmy reaction to the novel, since it is really one of those books where the reader makes up his her own mind about what s actually going on Or not Plus, it would sort of be unfair to spill its contents doing so might throw prospective readers into major spoiler alert territory I ll say this Andrew s Brain is something very different than anything I ve seen before Forget the usual linear narrative format, and forget any kind of basic quasi understanding normally provided by the author that all will be explained The book focuses on how we view brain and mind, memories, free will and fate, truth and deception, and overall how we see ourselves At the same time, Andrew muses about the mind as a kind of jail for the brain, which according to him, can often pretend to be one s soul, posing the question of one s ability to actually know and understand one s self.Reading this novel took me on an interesting ride The narrative started feeling way too random and repetitive at times, and while my normal thing to do when I read a novel with an unreliable narrator is to try and figure out what s really going on, this time I started getting frustrated and felt like giving up But then I thought, this is E.L Doctorow, an author I ve been reading for years, so there s got to be something here I m missing So midway through, I started completely over, relaxed, and changed my own way of thinking about the whole thing Suddenly the randomness and the flashes of repetition made sense, as I came to realize that this book is offering an opportunity to look through a window at how this person s traumatized brain works, making for a much better reading experience and allowing me to becomecomfortable with what was going on here Andrew s Brain is definitely a novel where a the reader is left to judge for himself herself just what might be going on during these conversations, and b you have to think outside of the box, freeing yourself from whatever expectations you might have as soon as you open the book With apologies for being so vague here, I don t want my take on it to ruin anyone else s appreciation This novel is getting very mixed reviews, but I found it intriguing and I had a lot of fun trying to figure things out after I d finished it, coming up with several different interpretations of what I d just read, all of which made perfectly good sense to me It s often funny and is populated by some very interesting characters here and there at the same time, it can be downright heartbreaking.You can find professional reviews that will tell you , but I d strongly suggest not reading them My thanks to the people at Random House I ve given my ARC to another reader and bought a real copy of this novel to revisit later The challenge of going through it again is just irresistible. Cut the music E.L Doctorow s new novel is no Ragtime The author who once orchestrated grand plots involving Houdini, Freud, J.P Morgan and a host of other real life luminaries is now working in a cramped, dark cell Instead of the breathtaking sweep of Sherman s March through Georgia and the Carolinas, Andrew s Brain leaves us trapped in the airless monologue of one hapless man Fans of Doctorow s award winning historical novels will find this slim book especially puzzling But that s clearly intentional.The whole story comes to us as the rambling testimony of a depressed scientist being patiently interviewed, possibly by a government psychiatrist Andrew flits around the events that led him here wherever here is Early in the book he says, I don t know what I m doing here, which makes two of us He sometimes speaks of himself in the third person he regularly mocks his unnamed interrogator and he pays no attention to chronology It s our job to put the tragic incidents of his life in order, to unscramble the taunting clues, to unearth the profundities buried in this misanthropic rumination Andrew s Brain hurt mine The problem isn t that the novel requires a significant degree of intellectual effort it s that it doesn t provide sufficient reward for that effort.Alternately dejected and self aggrandizing, Andrew describes a litany of personal failures and bizarre accidents He drops glasses, breaks a friend s jaw, poisons a child, diverts a stranger s car into a pole, lets his dog get eaten alive the list rolls on and on Andrew, stop, his psychiatrist pleads He s a walking disaster, a human bad luck charm.A particularly frank acquaintance tells him, Well meaning, gentle, kindly disposed, charming ineptitude is the modus operandi of the deadliest of killers In fact, it s fear of what calamity he might cause next that inspires Andrew to drop off a baby with his ex wife a desperate plan to save the child I had reached the point, he says, where I felt anything I did would bring harm to anyone I loved To Andrew s rising annoyance, the psychiatrist keeps asking, Did this really happen or So this was not a dream But the questionable events are usually this novel s finest parts and certainly its most compelling His ruined first marriage, his dismal teaching career in brain science, his affair with a sweet undergraduate These episodes demonstrate Doctorow s power as a storyteller, but they arrive like oases in the desert of a tedious narrative Aside from the mixed up chronology, we have to wade through Andrew s banal pronouncements about the brain and the nature of mind Consciousness without world is impossible, he claims but what about novel without plot The problem of what s real here and what isn t extends beyond the dubious events that Andrew describes Although there s nointriguing subject than how the brain becomes the mind, this cognitive scientist doesn t seem convincingly familiar with cognitive science or recent brain research Instead, Andrew just pops off with little pop philosophy conundrums Decades after Daniel Dennett, John Searle and other contemporary scientists and philosophers began writing about consciousness for a lay audience, we deserve somethingsophisticated from this novelcortex, less vortex It s fine for Andrew to claim that free will is an illusion, but he announces this as if he s said something revelatory There is nothing you can think of except yourself thinking, he goes on You are in the depthless dingledom of your own soul Please, let s leave my dingledom out of this.Tellingly, Andrew sounds muchconversant with American literature, particularly Mark Twain s work, which is closer to Doctorow s skill set as a longtime English professor Indeed, thematically, this novel echoes the cynical solipsism of Twain s last attempt at a novel, The Mysterious Stranger Andrew also speaks movingly about Twain s struggle with depression I see his frail grasp of life at those moments of his prose, his after dinner guard left down and his upwardly mobile decency become vulnerable to his self creation And the woman he loved, gone, and a child he loved, gone, and he looks in the mirror and hates the pretense of his white hair and mustache and suit, all gathered in the rocking chair wisdom that resides in his bleary eyes He despairs of the likelihood that the world is his illusion, that he is but a vagrant mind in a futile drift through eternity But beautiful, emotionally genuine passages like that must vie in this novel with some surprisingly trite sections Isn t it awfully late to be using little people whom Andrew nervously calls diminutives for comic, surreal effect Worse is the final quarter of the novel, set in the White House after the Sept 11 attacks With its well worn vision of George W Bush as an inept frat boy surrounded by maniacal advisers, the story stalls in limp political satire passed off as bitter historical analysis.In the end, Andrew s Brain, like Andrew himself, is merely a pretender claimingprofundity than it can deliver, offering us something elliptical and vague as a simulacrum of intellectual provocation Novelists such as Richard Powers and Alex Shakar have shown what a boundlessly fascinating subject the relationship between brain and mind can be, but exploring that issue in a meaningful way requiresthan a collection of dramatic gestures and philosophical koans When Andrew describes himself as a fake person, he has diagnosed the problem with this novel.http enterta This Brilliant New Novel By An American Master, The Author OfRagtime, The Book Of Daniel, Billy Bathgate, AndThe March, Takes Us On A Radical Trip Into The Mind Of A Man Who, Than Once In His Life, Has Been The Inadvertent Agent Of Disaster Speaking From An Unknown Place And To An Unknown Interlocutor, Andrew Is Thinking, Andrew Is Talking, Andrew Is Telling The Story Of His Life, His Loves, And The Tragedies That Have Led Him To This Place And Point In Time And As He Confesses, Peeling Back The Layers Of His Strange Story, We Are Led To Question What We Know About Truth And Memory, Brain And Mind, Personality And Fate, About One Another And Ourselves Written With Psychological Depth And Great Lyrical Precision, This Suspenseful And Groundbreaking Novel Delivers A Voice For Our Times Funny, Probing, Skeptical, Mischievous, Profound Andrew S Brain Is A Surprising Turn And A Singular Achievement In The Canon Of A Writer Whose Prose Has The Power To Create Its Own Landscape, And Whose Great Topic, In The Words Of Don DeLillo, Is The Reach Of American Possibility, In Which Plain Lives Take On The Cadences Of History Praise For E L Doctorow On Every Level, Doctorow S Work Is Powerful His Sensitivity To Language Is Perfectly Balanced, And Complemented By A Gigantic Vision Jennifer Egan E L Doctorow Is A National Treasure, And I Mean This In A Very Specific Sense He Has Rewarded Us, These Forty Five Years, With A Vision Of Ourselves, As A People, A Vision Possessed Of What I Might Call Aspirational Verve He Sees Us Clearly And Tenderly, Just As We Are, But Also Sees Past That To What We Might, At Our Best, Become George Saunders His Great Topic Is The Reach Of American Possibility, In Which Plain Lives Take On The Cadences Of History Doctorow S Prose Tends To Create Its Own Landscape, And To Become A Force That Works In Opposition To The Power Of Social Reality Don DeLillo A Writer Of Dazzling Gifts And Boundless Imaginative Energy Joyce Carol Oates, The New Yorker One Of Our Greatest Living Writers A Virtuosic Storyteller With Enormous Range People Doctorow Is A Magician His Prose Is Dazzling Vogue From The Hardcover Edition

E L Doctorow s works of fiction include Homer Langley, The March, Billy Bathgate, Ragtime, The Book of Daniel, City of God, Welcome to Hard Times, Loon Lake, World s Fair, The Waterworks, and All the Time in the World Among his honors are the National Book Award, three National Book Critics Circle Awards, two PEN Faulkner Awards, The Edith Wharton Citation for Fiction, and the presidentia

[PDF / Epub] ☉ Andrew's Brain By E.L. Doctorow –
  • Kindle Edition
  • 224 pages
  • Andrew's Brain
  • E.L. Doctorow
  • English
  • 10 July 2018

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