Man Walks Into A Room

Krauss, Nicole

Published by Doubleday, 2002
ISBN 10: 0385503997 / ISBN 13: 9780385503990
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Fine/Fine 1st edition 1st printing in an unclipped dust jacket. Signed by the author on the title page. Debut novel. Bookseller Inventory #

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Synopsis: A man is found wandering the desert outside Las Vegas. The cards in his wallet identify him as Samson Greene, a Columbia University English professor last seen leaving campus eight days ago. Thirty-six years old, with a wife, Anna, and a dog, Frank. But Samson doesn’t even recognize his own name, and by the time Anna has made her away across the country to pick him up, doctors have discovered a cherry-sized tumor in his brain; its removal eradicates the last twenty-four years of Samson’s memories.

Samson and Anna return to New York together, where Samson struggles to connect with the woman he knows he is supposed to love, with his career, with his home, with his “life.” He remembers his mother, his childhood in California, the basic shape and processes of the world, but everything else remains blank. In the meantime, Anna sees the same husband she has always seen, but every day has to steel herself against the notion that the man she loves is the Samson who remembers the last quarter century, the Samson who has been shaped by the history of their lives together.

Into these daily lives fraught with a peculiarly intimate tension comes a charismatic scientist who invites Samson to take part in a groundbreaking, experimental project involving the transfer of memories from one mind to another–all it requires is a trip back to the Nevada desert. It doesn’t take much to lure Samson away from his profound loneliness in the City–where he is stuck between missing the past life that surrounds him and yearning to enjoy the fresh start he’s been given–though Anna is never far from his thoughts as he embarks on the adventure that could mean the end of the old Samson Greene.

In Samson, Nicole Krauss creates an ordinary man who his facing a searingly new world with gritty poignancy and purely instinctual empathy. Reminiscent of early DeLillo, but with the emotional sensitivity of a budding Cheever, Krauss’s sharp, intelligent storytelling effortlessly peels away the layers of quotidian circumstances to reveal the subtle joys and woes of simple survival.

Review: Nicole Krauss's elegant, haunting debut, Man Walks into a Room, is a what-if novel. What if, asks Krauss, a man woke up one day and he'd forgotten everything he knows? Samson Greene is found lost in the desert near Las Vegas, memory-less thanks to a tumor "applying its arbitrary, pernicious pressure to his brain." Once the tumor is removed, he can remember his childhood up until his 12th year, but then all is blank. He returns to New York, to his wife Anna, to his life as a Columbia University English professor, but none of these things makes sense to him anymore: "Samson could dredge up no feeling for his own life but that of vague admiration." When he receives a call from a mysterious scientist inviting him back to the desert for a sinister-sounding memory experiment, Samson heads West with a kind of despondent fatalism. Krauss's novel moves gracefully from exploration of a lost soul to science fiction to a meditation on memory. If the book unravels a bit at the end, it's only because Krauss is trying to do too much--certainly no literary sin. --Claire Dederer

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Man Walks Into A Room
Publisher: Doubleday
Publication Date: 2002
Binding: Hard Cover
Book Condition: Fine
Edition: 1st Edition.

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