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Insect Dreams: The Half Life of Gregor Samsaby Marc Estrin
Synopses & Reviews
It seems the Samsas' chambermaid only claimed to sweep into the dustbin the twentieth century's most remarkable contemplative. Instead, having spirited him from his bedchamber, she apparently sold the metamorphosed Gregor to a Viennese sideshow, where-it being 1915-he could earn his living lecturing carnival crowds on the implications of Rilke and Herr Spengler.
In this delightfully original work of imagination, compassion, and good reason, we follow the trajectory of Kafka's salesman-turned-cockroach across two continents and thirty years as he touches the most significant flash points of his time. In the process, Marc Estrin delivers a human saga of cultural ambition and compassionate insight that may be the most surprising addition to Jewish literature in a generation.
What's more, the book is funny. And Estrin's Gregor is downright endearing.
With its reach and substance, Insect Dreams is nothing short of a liberal education — in cultural history, musical theory, nuclear physics, and the world of ideas. But it's also a remarkable reading experience. With a scope, heart, and intelligence unparalleled in recent memory, Insect Dreams should spark wide-ranging discussions about who we're becoming, now that the swiftest century is complete.
"Get ready for a highly imaginative ride through the cultural frontier of the early 20th century....A colossal book of characters and events that inspires tears of laughter and sadness in its rich blend of clever metaphor and unsettling facts, this promises to become a pivotal literary landmark. Highly recommended." Library Journal, starred review
"This is a grand comic opera starring a meditative cockroach scuttling through the corridors of power at the fulcrum of the 20th century. An impressive debut, notable for a generous sense of fun that never detracts from the serious historical and existential implications of all that it so entertainingly depicts." Kirkus Reviews
"Halfway through, after learning about everything from X-rays to risk management, I began to wonder, Is there anything Estrin doesn't know? It's only a matter of time before this new cult classic inspires a companion collection of footnotes and commentary....Indeed, if Insect Dreams weren't so perpetually funny, its philosophical ruminations and its encyclopedia of cameo appearances would be downright intimidating. In the most natural ways, Estrin manages to insinuate Gregor into the major developments of the first half of the 20th century. (Roaches can fit into the tiniest places, you know.)" Ron Charles, The Christian Science Monitor
"First: It's funny. Second: It's very funny. Third: It's brilliant." Frederick Reuss, author of Horace Afoot and Henry of Atlantic City
"Against all odds, this slyly outrageous story keeps picking up momentum. It allows us to watch the most explosive events of the early twentieth century from the wings. The whole account is written in the key of — Candide, meet Dr. Strangelove." Roger Shattuck, National Book Award Winner
"With its crazy-legged imagination, darting insights and twitchy wit, his is a creation that defies any sourpuss Raid to kill it dead." Tom Robbins
The metamorphosis of Gregor Samsa was surely one of the momentous transformations of modern times. Kafkas burning vision of the future ended with Gregor being swept into a dustbin. But what if Gregor were to survive and live to challenge the wrongs clouding humanitys horizon? In Insect Dreams, Gregor—rescued by profiteers— will sharpen his mind against the minds of Wittgenstein and Rilke, dance to the crazy rhythms of Prohibition, and appear as a surprise witness at the Scopes trial. Eventually, hell meet FDR, join the brain trust, and move into the White House.
But a talking cockroach with an ethical agenda can wear out his welcome, and soon Gregor is reassigned as a risk management consultant for the Manhattan Project. What follows is nothing less than the explosive birth of contemporary existence—and the culmination of a tale that is as intellectually ambitious as it is warmhearted and funny.
Every volume of "Vagabond"--a fictionalized graphic arts biography of real-life "sword saint" Miyamoto Musashi--has been a top-ten bestseller in Japan. Illustrations throughout.
About the Author
Marc Estrin is a writer, cellist, and activist living in Burlington, Vermont, and the author of The Education of Arnold Hitler.
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