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Man Walks Into a Room
Synopses & Reviews
A man is found wandering the desert outside Las Vegas. The cards in his wallet identify him as Samson Greene, a Columbia University English professor last seen leaving campus eight days ago. Thirty-six years old, with a wife, Anna, and a dog, Frank. But Samson doesn’t even recognize his own name, and by the time Anna has made her away across the country to pick him up, doctors have discovered a cherry-sized tumor in his brain; its removal eradicates the last twenty-four years of Samson’s memories.
Samson and Anna return to New York together, where Samson struggles to connect with the woman he knows he is supposed to love, with his career, with his home, with his “life.” He remembers his mother, his childhood in California, the basic shape and processes of the world, but everything else remains blank. In the meantime, Anna sees the same husband she has always seen, but every day has to steel herself against the notion that the man she loves is the Samson who remembers the last quarter century, the Samson who has been shaped by the history of their lives together.
Into these daily lives fraught with a peculiarly intimate tension comes a charismatic scientist who invites Samson to take part in a groundbreaking, experimental project involving the transfer of memories from one mind to another–all it requires is a trip back to the Nevada desert. It doesn’t take much to lure Samson away from his profound loneliness in the City–where he is stuck between missing the past life that surrounds him and yearning to enjoy the fresh start he’s been given–though Anna is never far from his thoughts as he embarks on the adventure that could mean the end of the old Samson Greene.
In Samson, Nicole Krauss creates an ordinary man who his facing a searingly new world with gritty poignancy and purely instinctual empathy. Reminiscent of early DeLillo, but with the emotional sensitivity of a budding Cheever, Krauss’s sharp, intelligent storytelling effortlessly peels away the layers of quotidian circumstances to reveal the subtle joys and woes of simple survival.
"By turns creepy, witty, austere, and vibey, Man Walks Into a Room — like The Body Artist, The Corrections, and the movie Memento (each dealt, in different ways, with memory disorders) — is a major contribution to the art of collective obliviousness and isolation, a lonely meditation on the nature of memory and loss." Adrienne Miller, Esquire (read the entire Esquire review)
"Nicole Krauss, with this remarkably felt, sharp-witted debut novel, strides into the forecourt of American letters." Susan Sontag
"Poignant and distinctive, forceful and prophetic, Nicole Krauss?s sentences are blazed into these pages like a revelation." Ken Kalfus
"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....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." Publishers Weekly
"Poet and critic Krauss has written a wonderful debut, full of shimmering sentences and real emotion, that raises provocative questions: Are we just a combination of habits that enable others to believe they know us? Is empathy possible without the other's memories?" Library Journal
"Man Walks into a Room is that rare thing: an evocative, finely written first novel that is a true work of fiction. In Samson Greene, Nicole Krauss has created a character whose loss of memory echoes the cultural amnesia, the loss of history that threatens to make our future more dangerous than our past." A. M. Homes
In this shimmering debut novel of memory, identity, and love, an English professor's brain tumor eradicates his memories past the age of 12 as he mourns a life well-lived and profoundly forgotten.
About the Author
Nicole Krauss graduated from Stanford, and went on to receive degrees from Oxford University and the Courtauld Institute in London. Her criticism has appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times Book Review, and Partisan Review. She has been a finalist for the Yale Younger Poet?s Prize, and her poetry has appeared in publications such as The Paris Review, Ploughshares, and Doubletake. She lives in New York City.
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