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Man Walks Into a Room Paperback – November 11, 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Top Customer Reviews
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." Samson later, towards the end of the novel, as a way of explaining his being found in the desert outside Las Vegas, feels that he was trying to find his way home from New York to California much like the Swallows find their way home to Capistrano every year...not just out of tradition and custom but because it was only at home and with his Mother that he really felt safe and secure.
Krauss' style is gorgeous, succinct and intelligent throughout but it is especially effective during Samson's reveries about his Mother, as in this quote about what she taught him about loss: "To touch and feel each thing in the world, to know it with your eyes closed so that when something is gone, it can be recognized by the shape of its absence. So that you can continue to possess the lost, because absence is the only constant thing. Because you can get free of everything except the space where things have been."
So much of contemporary fiction and film seems centered around the notion of recapturing a lost childhood or reconstructing an idealized family life that may or may not have existed; be it "The Road to Perdition" or Nicole Stansbury's "Places to look for a Mother." Add "Man Walks Into A Room" to that list.
Nicole Krauss has done an outstanding job of creating a world gone awry and inhabiting it with characters of substance and interest. I look forward to her second novel with anticipation.
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. It is at once a love story accessible to all as well as a text with unanswerable questions about meaning and identity. It can make you weep out of its dizzying emotional impact. It will keep you up at night, returning to its pages, dreaming of how anyone--anyone--could write that well. Her character development is superb. And she chooses the mundane yet the extraordinary. She excels. I imagine that perhaps--like most poets--she designed to restrain herself and then write one of the great pieces of short fiction I've ever read. And she did it without an eye on what might later be said about it analysis in journals and conversations in coffee shops and book clubs. And that's what makes it worth discussing. I wait with great anticipation for Krauss' future works.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Guides you from grieving to hope.
Keeps you sad and wondering.