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.
"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
"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
"The joy of this astonishing book apart from its wit and its true erudition is the tenderness with which the author treats even the least, and least worthy, of his characters. Insect Dreams is the kind of book you finish and immediately begin rereading, to see if it was really THAT good. It is." Peter S. Beagle
"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
The metamorphosis of Kafka's Gregor Samsa from fabric salesman to cockroach was surely one of the momentous transformations of the modern world. Now, in Marc Estrin's astounding debut, Gregor undergoes yet another metamorphosis — one that propels him across the rocky and often ridiculous landscape of the early twentieth century.
In these continuously surprising pages, Estrin's Gregor — secretly sold to a Viennese sideshow by the Samsas' chambermaid — comes to sharpen his mind against those of Wittgenstein, Spengler and Einstein; dance to the crazy rhythm of American Prohibition; appear as a surprise witness at the Scopes trial; become intimately involved in Alice Paul's feminist movement (and with Alice Paul); encounter the KKK; and confer with FDR, and Robert Oppenheimer — and emerge from it all as the very essence of modern conscience.
About the Author
Marc Estrin is a cellist with the Vermont Philharmonic Orchestra and the Montpelier Chamber Orchestra. He also performs regularly with a string quartet. In addition, Mr. Estrin is an activist and novelist. Insect Dreams is his first novel. He and his wife live in Burlington, Vermont.