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As She Climbed Across the Table: A Novel - Softcover

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9780375700125: As She Climbed Across the Table: A Novel
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         Anna Karenina left her husband for a dashing officer. Lady Chatterley left hers for the gamekeeper. Now Alice Coombs has her boyfriend for nothing ... nothing at all.  Just how that should have come to pass and what Philip Engstrand, Alice’s spurned boyfriend, can do about it is the premise for this vertiginous speculative romance by the acclaimed author of Gun, with Occasional Music.
         Alice Coombs is a particle physicist, and she and her colleagues have created a void, a hole in the universe, that they have taken to calling Lack. But Lack is a nullity with taste—tastes; it absorbs a pomegranate, light bulbs, an argyle sock; it disdains a bow tie, an ice ax, and a scrambled duck egg. To Alice, this selectivity translates as an irresistible personality. To Philip, it makes Lack an unbeatable rival, for how can he win Alice back from something that has no flaws—because it has no qualities? Ingenious, hilarious, and genuinely mind-expanding, As She Climbed Across the Table is the best boy-meets-girl-meets-void story ever written. 

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Review:
Particle physics, false vacuum bubbles, an alternate universe--this is the stuff of Jonathan Lethem's novel As She Climbed Across the Table. The tale echoes Alice in Wonderland in its mad tumble through a rearranged reality. Narrator Phillip Engstrand is a university professor who has made a career out of studying academic environments. Engstrand is in love with Alice Coombs, a particle physicist engaged in a bold attempt to replicate the origins of the universe. The result of the experiment is Lack, a very selective black hole that sucks some things into its void--a cat, a pair of socks, a strawberry--and rejects others, namely, a love-struck Alice. As Alice's unrequited obsession with Lack grows, Phillip becomes so desperate to save his beloved from this empty rival that he risks a journey down the metaphysical rabbit hole.

Here the language of physics becomes the language of love: describing physics' "observer problem," Alice says, "Some people think the observer's consciousness determines the spin or even the existence of the electron." Later, as he stumbles to explain Alice's importance to him, Phillip tells her, "I'm not sure I really exist except under your observation." In this memorable little book, Lethem explores the cosmic possibilities of love.

From the Publisher:
Philip is in love with Alice. As the novel opens, he is beginning to lose her. Not to another man, as he fears, but to, literally, nothing. Alice is a physicist, and a team at the University where both she and Philip work has created a hole, a vacuum, a doorway of nothingness inside the laboratory. They call it "Lack." Alice becomes obsessed with Lack, as Philip is obsessed by Alice.

The novel is at the same time an astute and wise portrait of unrequited love (albeit of a very unusual kind) a hilarious academic parody, a novel of ideas and a social satire. It is utterly original, but in the school of Thomas Pynchon, Don DeLillo, Katherine Dunn, and David Foster Wallace.

Passion, humor, yearning and knowledge, blended together in a suspenseful love story that could be characterized as "American Magical Realism."

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  • PublisherVintage
  • Publication date1998
  • ISBN 10 0375700129
  • ISBN 13 9780375700125
  • BindingPaperback
  • Number of pages224
  • Rating
    3.67 avg rating
    ( 5,500 ratings by Goodreads )

Other Popular Editions of the Same Title

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ISBN 10:  ISBN 13:  9780571225293
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Doubleday, 1997
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