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Andrew's Brain: A Novel by [Doctorow, E.L.]
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3.4 out of 5 stars 239 customer reviews

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Length: 209 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

An Amazon Best Book of the Month, January 2014: From the start of this magnificent novel, we’re told that “Andrew” has done bad things. “I am numb to my guilt … incapable of punishing myself,” he tells the unnamed man he calls “Doc.” The things we don’t know about these two men are numerous. Where is Andrew? Who’s he speaking with? A shrink? A cop? And why? It gives nothing away to state that the unraveling of those and other questions is what makes this such a strange and compelling page turner. Via the tense Godot-like conversation/interrogation, we’re slowly exposed to Andrew’s life. Or at least a version of it. “You don’t know everything about me, Doc, you’re only hearing what I choose to tell you,” Andrew says. And later: “We’re all Pretenders.” We learn Andrew gave up his daughter to an ex-wife after his second wife died on 9/11--an event that echoes menacingly throughout this wise, witty, and unnerving examination of truth and memory. The conversation between two people who clearly know each other well, but distrust each another more, keeps us on shifting ground throughout. We eventually learn of Andrew’s murky role in the basement of a post-9/11 White House, and his run-in with characters named Chaingang and Rumbum. “Jesus, I don’t know why I talk to you,” Andrew huffs more than once. Not until the final page do we discover, he must. --Neal Thompson

From Booklist

*Starred Review* A man is talking about a friend, a cognitive scientist named Andrew, but it doesn’t take long for the person listening to him, possibly a psychoanalyst, to ask if he, in fact, is Andrew. He says he is. Furthermore, he reports that he’s numb to all emotions and that he hears voices. Worse yet, he’s been living under some sort of cosmic curse, unintentionally precipitating catastrophes right and left while he walks through the flames unscathed. There is much that is eerie and odd about Andrew’s exchanges with an unidentified, mostly silent interlocutor, and the stories he tells induce us to question his veracity and sanity. Did he cause a fatal car crash? An infant’s quiet death? A woman’s disappearance on 9/11? Did he drink cocktails with midgets? Hang out with the president during their Yale days? In stunning command of every aspect of this taut, unnerving, riddling tale, virtuoso Doctorow confronts the persistent mysteries of the mind—trauma and memory, denial and culpability—as he brings us back to one deeply scarring time of shock and lies, war and crime. Writing in concert with Twain, Poe, and Kafka, Doctorow distills his mastery of language, droll humor, well-primed imagination, and political outrage into an exquisitely disturbing, morally complex, tragic, yet darkly funny novel of the collective American unconscious and human nature in all its perplexing contrariness. --Donna Seaman

Product Details

  • File Size: 2916 KB
  • Print Length: 209 pages
  • Publisher: Random House (January 14, 2014)
  • Publication Date: January 14, 2014
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00E2RZHLE
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #308,964 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Dr. J. J. Kregarman VINE VOICE on December 12, 2013
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
E.L. Doctorow, in my opinion, is one of the greatest living American novelists. Everything of his I have read until starting on Andrew's Brain, I have enjoyed and admired. While admiring parts of this opus as witty and momentarily brilliant, I neither enjoyed it or considered it, as a whole, to be ranked among his best works. Really, it's a bit of a muchness to have to read almost half of a novel to begin to get involved! Were this not a book by E.L. Doctorow, I would have abandoned it well before that point. As a vine club member, and in respect to this author I needed to push on to the end. If you are a fan of the author, you'll read this book, no matter what I write. If you are new to him look elsewhere for your first experience reading him!
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
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.
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I would call myself a casual E.L. Doctorow reader. I've read all his classics, and a smattering of his other works. Probably 8-10 total. So I'm far from an expert. I can say that this is pretty unique from other Doctorow titles I've read, it's a different approach for him. 'Andrew's Brain' is certainly an interesting read, it's only 200 pages and I finished it on a DC-NYC Amtrak train up and back. It flows well, but it's not necessarily an 'easy read.' The narrative is not all that compelling, it's a man (Andrew) telling his analyst about his life, his marriages, etc. But the writing is fantastic, the prose is great, and the plot twists take the story in some interesting directions. As a fan of good fiction I highly recommend this.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I got this book because I saw E.L. Doctorow interviewed on CBS this Morning. I was fascinated with his story of how it took him a long time to write this book and he had this image for a long time of "a man standing in front of a door, holding a baby"...

I thought to myself "Where does this story go?" and "Why did he have this image in his head for so long?"- so I bought the book [the
Library copy our Lab Puppy, Milo, chewed up before I knew what he was doing [maybe he knew something I didn't !]. -so I reordered this on Amazon.

The story starts out OK- Man's wife dies and he has a small baby left to care for so he goes and 'stands outside and knocks on his
ex-wife's [Martha] door- to help him take care of the baby...

From there- it get's bizzare... and I had difficulty following this guys 'brain'.. [he's on a city street at a stop lite, and suddenly there is a spirit/ ghost [? ]saying to him "come and fix my screen door'- [which happens to be on a farm in the middle of nowhere !!!] ...

I skipped parts as I got really bored with 'Andrews Brain' and who he was...... "a loser in life, but OK as a teacher"
[who has multiple fantasies over a student in his class]...which get's boring and weird also...

Anyway, I found parts of the book interesting like someone was talking to me personally about their inner life-- but the majority of the book was too weird for me- illogical and strange...

I guess Milo our pup was telling me had 'a premonition' this wasn't my kind of book !...
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Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
A few pages into this new Doctorow novel, I was reminded of one of his regular narrative strategies--that is, he often begins his novels by creating confusion in the reader's mind. The narrator's voice shifts, the chronology is confusing or just random, the location of the action (or discussion) is unclear, and so on. The characteristics of narrative that give the reader a sense of where and who and what and why are scrambled. It takes a while for the attentive reader to sort them out. This happens at the beginning of Andrew's Brain, but it's not a longterm problem with the novel. As it happens, the reader soon learns that the voice of Andrew is speaking to (or in some cases writing to) his analyst, an unnamed presence who responds with questions (often left unanswered) and occasional comments about Andrew's state of mind, motives, good or bad choices. Andrew tells the analyst about the failure of his first marriage and his panicky effort to have his first (now former) wife take over the care of his infant daughter by his second wife, who is deceased. We learn all this if we read attentively through the first sections of the novel. I would add that there are no spoilers here.

With reference to spoilers, I have to say that I hesitate to tell much of anything more about the events Andrew narrates to his analyst, other than that he tells the story of how he meets and marries his second wife. Beyond that, it would be unfair to reveal the sequence of events that form the main body of the narrative of this uneven but finally very powerful novel. (I started early thinking it might be a 2 star, as I was exasperated by the triviality of much of Andrew's narrative and the too-clever devices Doctorow was using to mix the chronology and the characters to sustain uncertainty and suspense.
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