Thursday, 23 August 2012

The Verificationist by Donald Antrim (3.5/5)

The back says: Twenty psychoanalysts meet for dinner in a pancake house. Tom finds himself locked in a bear hug by Bernhardt, who is merely trying to keep him from a food fight, but the effects are disastrous as Tom is forced into an out-of-body experience, floating himself up to the ceiling and from there looking down on himself and his companions. Over the course of the evening he watches as his life unfolds and unravels, until in a catastrophic finale, he loses the very sense of himself as a man.
I say: Goodness me, what a mind fuck mental trip this was. I genuinely love books that throughout, or at the end, make me go what the hell did I just read; and this may be the king of them all.

I genuinely had no idea what to expect when I started reading this, and I doubt that anyone ever could. As the synopsis says, Tom gets locked in a bear hug and has an out of body experience in which he goes through different episodes in his life that have in some way lead him to where he is today.

Thus far, I was with it all.

But then Tom convinces the waitress to hold on to him so that they can float above the restaurant together – and she does – as you do. However, thinking that this was as weird as it was going to get was a mistake, because more people climb on board this strange hallucinatory trip just below the ceiling and I can’t even begin to understand how this would work in reality.

Not that I even really care...

There’s a certain type of comedy underlining everything that’s going on in this absurd story that I can’t really pinpoint – it’s funny and yet extremely sad at the same time – but to call it bittersweet would be to trivialise it all. Clearly, Tom (and most of his colleagues) has some issues that he’s not ready – or able – to deal with, and as the story progresses we get little clues as to what it could be, but since everything we hear is said by psychoanalysts, we can’t really trust that it’s the truth.

And, for me, that is the beauty of it all.

A part of me would like to have Antrim explain what it all means, but another one is convinced that doing so would overshadow my own interpretations. I’m convinced that this is the type of book that, every time you read it, will leave you with new or different interpretations – in other words; just the type of book I adore.

I’m giving this 3.5/5 because either I’m too stupid to get the plot or there is no plot and I’m too stupid to realise that – i.e. we’ll talk more when I’ve given this another read.

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