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Man Walks Into a Room Hardcover – May 21, 2002


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; 1st edition (May 21, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385503997
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385503990
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (51 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #707,508 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Nicole Krauss's elegant, haunting debut, Man Walks into a Room, is a what-if novel. What if, asks Krauss, a man woke up one day and he'd forgotten everything he knows? Samson Greene is found lost in the desert near Las Vegas, memory-less thanks to a tumor "applying its arbitrary, pernicious pressure to his brain." Once the tumor is removed, he can remember his childhood up until his 12th year, but then all is blank. He returns to New York, to his wife Anna, to his life as a Columbia University English professor, but none of these things makes sense to him anymore: "Samson could dredge up no feeling for his own life but that of vague admiration." When he receives a call from a mysterious scientist inviting him back to the desert for a sinister-sounding memory experiment, Samson heads West with a kind of despondent fatalism. Krauss's novel moves gracefully from exploration of a lost soul to science fiction to a meditation on memory. If the book unravels a bit at the end, it's only because Krauss is trying to do too much--certainly no literary sin. --Claire Dederer

From Publishers Weekly

This elegiac first novel achieves a kind of beguiling dreamy tenderness as it tells the story of Samson Greene, a seemingly happy, well-adjusted English professor whose life is thrown wildly out of kilter by a small brain tumor. It is discovered only after he suddenly leaves home and is found wandering in the Nevada desert. Once the tumor is removed, he can remember nothing beyond the age of 12, so that his adult existence, his friends, his professional life and especially his wife, Anna, are a profound mystery to him. He and Anna try to resume their lives, but it is no good pretending that things can be as they were. Eventually Samson leaves again, this time for an experimental research station, also in the Western desert, where attempts are being made to graft the memories of one human into another's mind. Samson becomes friends with another resident at the station, an elderly eccentric called Donald, but when Donald's memories are grafted into Samson's mind, they are of a test nuclear explosion he witnessed as a young soldier. Adrift again, and even more disillusioned, Samson convinces himself he must find his medical records and also determine where his dead mother is buried; he succeeds in both endeavors, one with the aid of a drunken teenager in Las Vegas, the other with a senile uncle and achieves a kind of hard-won reconciliation to his lot. This outline of the story suggests a somber tale full of dark symbolism, but in fact it is surprisingly lighthearted, sharply observant and often touching. Krauss is a sure writer thoroughly in control of her material, and she creates, in Donald and Uncle Max, a pair of memorable characters. Only the ending, from the viewpoint of Anna, the lost wife, fails to bring quite the expected epiphany.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

Nicole Krauss is the author of "Man Walks into a Room," "Great House," and the international bestseller "The History of Love." Her books have been translated into more than thirty-five languages. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Customer Reviews

This is a book that touched me very deeply.
M. Tosko
Because of the early investment in the character I continued reading until, only 40 pages left in the book, I was too painfully bored to even bother finishing it.
Amazon Customer
Though the book is well-written, the characters, Samson especially, didn't really hold my interest.
J. Van Ingen

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 38 people found the following review helpful By MICHAEL ACUNA on July 24, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Nicole Krauss' "Man Walks Into A Room" is a story of longing. Longing for our youth and for the time when our Mothers were very important to us...really the center of our world. It is also about memory and how our memories shape our lives and what happens when we are without a big chunk of them.
Samson Greene, a married college professor 36 years old and living in NYC, is found wandering in the desert outside of Las Vegas. He is disoriented, doesn't know who he is or from whence he came. In the hospital he is found to have a brain tumor, which, after removal, leaves him without 24 years of his memories. His wife Anna rushes to his side of course, but he does not recognize her: "He could not absorb everything she was trying to tell him. When she told him that his mother had died he felt it like the clean break of a bone and a sound came from him that he did not recognize. When he was too exhausted to weep any more he lay in silence, all his being drained to the flat line of the heart stilled."
Anna takes Samson home to New York and they try to reconvene their marriage but it is not easy: "You don't know. You don't know! She (Anna) shouted...I still love you. I've lost you and yet you're still here. To taunt me..."
Krauss or Samson really, refers back again and again throughout the novel to the loss of his mother: "It was as if he had been sleeping when she died, or worse laughing his head off at a party. It had always been the two of them; it was as if he had closed his eyes and then, when he opened them, he was old and she was gone.
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49 of 58 people found the following review helpful By Whitney on May 1, 2004
Format: Paperback
After reading Nicole Krauss' "The Last Words on Earth" in the New Yorker, I went to my library to get this book. However, it was disappointing. The plot would have been better served by a lesser writer. In this book, Krauss jilts the intriguing plot line with strained metaphors and other poetic devices. Krauss' background as a student and poet are evident; the book seems written for the purpose of analysis rather than the pleasure of the narrative.
That is what separates this book from the greatness achieved by other postmodern authors--ex: DeLillo, Nabokov, Roth. Their plots may naturally suggest the same questions of authenticity and reality, and they may refuse the patent plot line (exposition, rising action, conflict, resolution), they may even write self-consciously, breaking the plane between writer and audience. But, unlike Krauss in this effort, they have achieved those objectives without forcing the reader into that dialogue. In particular, Krauss' pretentious (or idealistic, arguably) poetic tendencies are always nagging at the reader, at times driving him away from plot to make note of the language. Language must serve a writer like a waiter at a fine restaurant--always filling your glass, but doing so without instrusion. Krauss' language is more like the waitress at T.G.I. Friday's: too much flair.
"The Last Words on Earth" (you can find it by googling Krauss and the title; it's available on a New Yorker archived page), is nothing short of breathtaking. Krauss has the reader running after the plot, caught between the enjoyment of what one is reading at the time and the anticipation of what the next sentence brings, and flipping forward to ensure that the story, the pleasure, will not end too quickly. It is elegant, rather than ostentatious.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Matt P. on May 26, 2005
Format: Hardcover
I think the strength of this novel lies in the idea of a man moving on in his life, despite the fact that his past has been wiped out. Krauss puts us into Samson's mind and makes us wonder how we would act/think if we were in his situation. The parts of the book that ring true are the concepts of one vision lasting in memory above all others, and the constant struggle of Samson wondering what kind of man he had been before his loss. This is a deep and reflective novel, not unlike something we would see from an earlier Delillo. The plot takes twists and creates a surreal desert setting through much of the story, but in the end the characters are believable and the issues of loss and longing make it an accessible novel.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By MJN76 on August 23, 2002
Format: Hardcover
Krauss's "Man Walks Into a Room" is an elegantly told story about Samson Greene, a man loses decades of memory as a result of the removal of a brain tumor. Sadly, it is not only memories that Samson loses. Krauss explores the vast web of confusion and alienation Samson experiences with his wife, a woman whom he no longer knows or understands. A professor at Columbia, Samson has no recollection of his work there or his connection to the university. With seemingly little to lose, Samson goes to the middle of a Nevada desert to conduct vague, futurist brain research except Samson himself is the object of the research. After an extanglement with the doctor-researcher, Krauss shifts gears sending Samson to soul searching travels, looking for his lost uncle and eventually his mother. The novel does unravel some toward the end, and it is clear that Krauss had difficulty with the ending. In all fairness, this is a first novel, and one that raises some important questions about identity, how much of our sanity relates to other people, and the importance of family. In all, Krauss writes a strong novel which provokes much reflection. Recommended.
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