A Gambler's Anatomy is quintessential Lethem — Alexander Bruno, a good-looking, charming backgammon gambler who believes he's telepathic, is felled in Berlin by a blot in his vision that turns out to be an almost inoperable tumor. A bleak, funny, fascinating novel in Lethem's intelligent, generous voice. Recommended By Jill O., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
The author of Motherless Brooklyn and The Fortress of Solitude returns with a devilishly entertaining novel about an international backgammon hustler who thinks he's psychic. Too bad about the tumor in his face.
Handsome, impeccably tuxedoed Bruno Alexander travels the world winning large sums of money from amateur "whales" who think they can challenge his peerless acumen at backgammon. Fronted by his pasty, vampiric manager, Edgar Falk, Bruno arrives in Berlin after a troubling run of bad luck in Singapore. Perhaps it was the chance encounter with his crass childhood acquaintance Keith Stolarsky and his smoldering girlfriend Tira Harpaz. Or perhaps it was the emergence of a blot that distorts his vision so he has to look at the board sideways.
Things don't go much better in Berlin. Bruno's flirtation with Madchen, the striking blonde he meets on the ferry, is inconclusive; the game at the unsettling Herr Kohler's mansion goes awry as his blot grows worse; he passes out and is sent to the local hospital, where he is given an extremely depressing diagnosis. Having run through Falk's money, Bruno turns to Stolarsky, who, for reasons of his own, agrees to fly Bruno to Berkeley, and to pay for the experimental surgery that might save his life.
Berkeley, where Bruno discovered his psychic abilities, and to which he vowed never to return. Amidst the patchouli flashbacks and Anarchist gambits of the local scene, between Tira's come-ons and Keith's machinations, Bruno confronts two existential questions: Is the gambler being played by life? And what if you're telepathic but it doesn't do you any good?
"Lethem is famous for his genre bending approach to fiction and this delightfully unusual tale is no exception. A Gambler’s Anatomy is a spy story wrapped up in a farce wrapped up in a social justice quest narrative, with a dash of horror and the paranormal thrown in for good measure. A tragicomic gem." LitHub
"A Gambler’s Anatomy joins Michael Chabon’s Telegraph Avenue in affectionately skewering Berkeley, that land of faded liberal dreams and smug libertarian gentrifiers. But it’s also a return to the surrealist paranoia that courses through Lethem’s most original books." Boris Kachka, Vulture
"No novelist of recent years has been less predictable than Lethem, whose genre-bending exploits have produced a hybrid literature all his own. In his new novel, his 10th, the author seems to be channeling (and, as usual, transforming) both Thomas Pynchon and Ian Fleming...in short, just another day in Lethemland, as strange and wondrous in its way as anyplace imagined by L. Frank Baum." Chicago Tribune
About the Author
Jonathan Lethem is the New York Times bestselling author of nine novels, including Dissident Gardens, Chronic City, The Fortress of Solitude, and Motherless Brooklyn, and of the essay collection The Ecstasy of Influence, which was a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist. A recipient of the MacArthur Fellowship and winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction, Lethem’s work has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper’s Magazine, Rolling Stone, Esquire, and The New York Times, among other publications.
Jonathan Lethem on PowellsBooks.Blog
I guess I've always been into games as a kind of idea of a world within a world, or a sort of pocket universe, where things are played out that both seem more controlled and as a way to step outside of life. The game board becomes a kind of version of life...