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Wednesday, May 29th, 2002


Man Walks Into a Room

by Nicole Krauss

The Disappearing Man

A review by Adrienne Miller

Found wandering alone and incoherent in the Nevada desert is Samson Greene, a thirty-six year-old English professor who, it is revealed, has a brain tumor, the removal of which erases almost all of his long-term memory. Samson's life was cheerful and stable before his memory disorder, but when he's delivered back to his wife Anna in New York, it's clear they'll never be able to reclaim anything resembling the life they knew together. When Anna suggests Samson throw away his address book ("'It's depressing, all these people,'" Samson says), it seems as if she's finally throwing in the towel.

He befriends a student named Lana (watch out, men, for students named "Lana"), and leaves for the West again, this time hoping to get back what was lost there. He enrolls himself in an experimental memory research facility, where he has a kind of memory transplant with another patient. Probably not the most comforting solution, but what was the alternative? "'In the end,'" a character says, "'we die as alone as we were born, having struggled to understand others, to make ourselves understood, but having failed in what we once imagined was possible.'"

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 is Esquire's literary editor.

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