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Andrew's Brain

Cover of Andrew's Brain

Andrew's Brain

A Novel
Borrow Borrow Borrow
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE TELEGRAPH

This brilliant new novel by an American master, the author of Ragtime, The Book of Daniel, Billy Bathgate, and The March, takes us on a radical trip into the mind of a man who, more than once in his life, has been the inadvertent agent of disaster.

Speaking from an unknown place and to an unknown interlocutor, Andrew is thinking, Andrew is talking, Andrew is telling the story of his life, his loves, and the tragedies that have led him to this place and point in time. And as he confesses, peeling back the layers of his strange story, we are led to question what we know about truth and memory, brain and mind, personality and fate, about one another and ourselves. Written with psychological depth and great lyrical precision, this suspenseful and groundbreaking novel delivers a voice for our times--funny, probing, skeptical, mischievous, profound. Andrew's Brain is a surprising turn and a singular achievement in the canon of a writer whose prose has the power to create its own landscape, and whose great topic, in the words of Don DeLillo, is "the reach of American possibility, in which plain lives take on the cadences of history."

Praise for Andrew's Brain

"Too compelling to put down . . . fascinating, sometimes funny, often profound . . . Andrew is a provocatively interesting and even sympathetic character. . . . The novel seamlessly combines Doctorow's remarkable prowess as a literary stylist with deep psychological storytelling pitting truth against delusion, memory and perception, consciousness and craziness. . . . [Doctorow] takes huge creative risks--the best kind."--USA Today

"Cunning [and] sly . . . This babbling Andrew is a casualty of his times, binding his wounds with thick wrappings of words, ideas, bits of story, whatever his spinning mind can unspool for him. One of the things that makes [Andrew] such a terrific comic creation is that he's both maddeningly self-delusive and scarily self-aware: He's a fool, but he's no innocent."--The New York Times Book Review

"A tantalising tour de force . . . a journey worth taking . . . With exhilarating brio, the book plays off . . . two contrasting takes on mind and brain. . . . [Andrew's Brain encompasses] an astonishing range of modes: vaudeville humour, tragic romance, philosophical speculation. . . . It fizzes with intellectual energy, verbal pyrotechnics and satiric flair."--The Sunday Times (London)

"Dramatic . . . cunning and beautiful . . . strange and oddly fascinating, this book: a musing, a conjecture, a frivolity, a deep interrogatory, a hymn."--San Francisco Chronicle

"Provocative . . . a story aswirl in a whirlpool of neuroscience, human relations, loss, guilt and recent American history . . . Doctorow reveals his mastery in the sheen of a text that is both window and mirror. Reading his work is akin to soaring in a glider. Buoyed by invisible breath, readers encounter stunning vistas stretching to horizons they've never imagined."--The Plain Dealer

"Andrew's ruminations can be funny, and his descriptions gorgeous."--Associated Press

"[An] evocative, suspenseful novel about the deceptive nature of human consciousness."--More

"A quick and acutely intelligent read."--Entertainment Weekly

From the Hardcover edition.
NAMED ONE OF THE BEST BOOKS OF THE YEAR BY THE TELEGRAPH

This brilliant new novel by an American master, the author of Ragtime, The Book of Daniel, Billy Bathgate, and The March, takes us on a radical trip into the mind of a man who, more than once in his life, has been the inadvertent agent of disaster.

Speaking from an unknown place and to an unknown interlocutor, Andrew is thinking, Andrew is talking, Andrew is telling the story of his life, his loves, and the tragedies that have led him to this place and point in time. And as he confesses, peeling back the layers of his strange story, we are led to question what we know about truth and memory, brain and mind, personality and fate, about one another and ourselves. Written with psychological depth and great lyrical precision, this suspenseful and groundbreaking novel delivers a voice for our times--funny, probing, skeptical, mischievous, profound. Andrew's Brain is a surprising turn and a singular achievement in the canon of a writer whose prose has the power to create its own landscape, and whose great topic, in the words of Don DeLillo, is "the reach of American possibility, in which plain lives take on the cadences of history."

Praise for Andrew's Brain

"Too compelling to put down . . . fascinating, sometimes funny, often profound . . . Andrew is a provocatively interesting and even sympathetic character. . . . The novel seamlessly combines Doctorow's remarkable prowess as a literary stylist with deep psychological storytelling pitting truth against delusion, memory and perception, consciousness and craziness. . . . [Doctorow] takes huge creative risks--the best kind."--USA Today

"Cunning [and] sly . . . This babbling Andrew is a casualty of his times, binding his wounds with thick wrappings of words, ideas, bits of story, whatever his spinning mind can unspool for him. One of the things that makes [Andrew] such a terrific comic creation is that he's both maddeningly self-delusive and scarily self-aware: He's a fool, but he's no innocent."--The New York Times Book Review

"A tantalising tour de force . . . a journey worth taking . . . With exhilarating brio, the book plays off . . . two contrasting takes on mind and brain. . . . [Andrew's Brain encompasses] an astonishing range of modes: vaudeville humour, tragic romance, philosophical speculation. . . . It fizzes with intellectual energy, verbal pyrotechnics and satiric flair."--The Sunday Times (London)

"Dramatic . . . cunning and beautiful . . . strange and oddly fascinating, this book: a musing, a conjecture, a frivolity, a deep interrogatory, a hymn."--San Francisco Chronicle

"Provocative . . . a story aswirl in a whirlpool of neuroscience, human relations, loss, guilt and recent American history . . . Doctorow reveals his mastery in the sheen of a text that is both window and mirror. Reading his work is akin to soaring in a glider. Buoyed by invisible breath, readers encounter stunning vistas stretching to horizons they've never imagined."--The Plain Dealer

"Andrew's ruminations can be funny, and his descriptions gorgeous."--Associated Press

"[An] evocative, suspenseful novel about the deceptive nature of human consciousness."--More

"A quick and acutely intelligent read."--Entertainment Weekly

From the Hardcover edition.
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Excerpts-
  • From the book

    II can tell you about my friend Andrew, the cognitive scientist. But it's not pretty. One evening he appeared with an infant in his arms at the door of his ex-wife, Martha. Because Briony, his lovely young wife after Martha, had died.

    Of what?

    We'll get to that. I can't do this alone, Andrew said, as Martha stared at him from the open doorway. It happened to have been snowing that night, and Martha was transfixed by the soft creature-like snowflakes alighting on Andrew's NY Yankees hat brim. Martha was like that, enrapt by the peripheral things as if setting them to music. Even in ordinary times, she was slow to respond, looking at you with her large dark rolling protuberant eyes. Then the smile would come, or the nod, or the shake of the head. Meanwhile the heat from her home drifted through the open door and fogged up Andrew's eyeglasses. He stood there behind his foggy lenses like a blind man in the snowfall and was without volition when at last she reached out, gently took the swaddled infant from him, stepped back, and closed the door in his face.

    This was where?

    Martha lived then in New Rochelle, a suburb of New York, in a neighborhood of large homes of different styles--Tudor, Dutch Colonial, Greek Revival--most of them built in the 1920s and '30s, houses set back from the street with tall old Norway maples the predominant trees. Andrew ran to his car and came back with a baby carrier, a valise, two plastic bags filled with baby needs. He banged on the door: Martha, Martha! She is six months old, she has a name, she has a birth certificate. I have it here, open the door please, Martha, I am not abandoning my daughter, I just need some help, I need help!

    The door opened and Martha's husband, a large man, stood there. Put those things down, Andrew, he said. Andrew did as he was told and Martha's large husband thrust the baby back into his arms. You've always been a fuck-up, Martha's large husband said. I'm sorry your young wife has died but I expect that she's dead of some stupid mistake on your part, some untimely negligence, one of your thought experiments, or famous intellectual distractions, but in any event something to remind us all of that gift you have of leaving disaster in your wake.

    Andrew put the baby in the baby carrier that lay on the ground, lifted the carrier with the baby, and walked slowly back to his car, nearly losing his balance on the slick path. He fastened a seat belt around the carrier in the backseat, returned to the house, picked up the plastic bags and the valise and carried them to the car. When everything was secured, he closed the car door, drew himself up, turned, and found Martha standing there with a shawl around her shoulders. All right, she said.

    [thinking]

    Go on. . . .

    No, I'm just thinking of something I read about the pathogenesis of schizophrenia and bipolar disease. The brain biologists are going to get to that with their gene sequencing, finding the variations in the genome--those protein suckers attached to the teleology. They'll give them numbers and letters, snipping away a letter here, adding a number there, and behold the disease will be no more. So, Doc, you're in trouble with your talking cure.

    Don't be too sure.

    Trust me, you'll be on unemployment. What else can we do as eaters of the fruit of the tree of knowledge but biologize ourselves? Expunge the pain, extend the life. You want another eye, say, in the back of your head? That can be arranged. Put your rectum in your knee? Not a problem. Even give you wings if you want, though the result would not be flying aloft but more like giant skips, floating megastrides as on those tracks that are...

About the Author-
  • E. L. Doctorow's works of fiction include Homer & Langley, The March, Billy Bathgate, Ragtime, The Book of Daniel, City of God, Welcome to Hard Times, Loon Lake, World's Fair, The Waterworks, and All the Time in the World. Among his honors are the National Book Award, three National Book Critics Circle awards, two PEN/Faulkner awards, and the presidentially conferred National Humanities Medal. In 2009 he was short-listed for the Man Booker International Prize honoring a writer's lifetime achievement in fiction, and in 2012 he won the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction, given to an author whose "scale of achievement over a sustained career [places] him . . . in the highest rank of American literature." In 2013 the American Academy of Arts and Letters awarded him the Gold Medal for Fiction.

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    Random House Publishing Group
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  • Copyright Protection (DRM) required by the Publisher may be applied to this title to limit or prohibit printing or copying. File sharing or redistribution is prohibited. Your rights to access this material expire at the end of the lending period. Please see Important Notice about Copyrighted Materials for terms applicable to this content.

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