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Out of Body Experience in a Pancake House,
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This review is from: The Verificationist: A Novel (Paperback)
This 179-page novella is in a way the stream of consciousness of Tom, a middle-aged pyschologist who, meeting with his colleagues in a lower end pancake house, tries to start a food fight when a rival colleague, a burly man with a swollen ego, puts our narrator in a bear hug upon which Tom has an out of body experience in which he does a glorious exposition on the nature of pancake houses. The real business of this absurd (I mean that as a compliment), allegorical novel is to poke fun at the human need for safety, for mother, for the womb, all embodied by the pancake house. Tom's quest for a mother in the metaphorical sense compels him to invite his colleagues at this pancake emporium every year or so where they try to mend the their bruised egos, a quest that backfires. Antrim's major conflict in the novel is the human drive for safety vs. our utter sense of helplessness in this metaphysical parody, which showcases Antrim's brilliant writing skills. Why only four stars? Because after about 100 pages, I grew a bit tired of the metaphysical explorations. Similar themes are pursued with far more intensity and efficacy in my opinion in Antrim's 20-page essay, "I Bought a Bed," published in Best American Essays 2003.