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The Verificationist

Antrim, Donald

724 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 0375408223 / ISBN 13: 9780375408229
Published by Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2000
Hardcover
From Warwick Books, member IOBA (South Pasadena, CA, U.S.A.)

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Hardcover with dustjacket. 8vo. First edition, first printing. Book and jacket are in fine condition; a lovely copy, crisp and bright. Not price-clipped. 179 pp. Bookseller Inventory # 15096

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Bibliographic Details

Title: The Verificationist

Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf, New York

Publication Date: 2000

Binding: Hardcover

Dust Jacket Condition: Dust Jacket Included

Edition: 1st Edition

About this title

Synopsis:

From "a fiercely intelligent writer" (New York Times Book Review) and the author of The Hundred Brothers (a PEN/Faulkner Award finalist) comes a strikingly insightful and inspired new novel -- set in a pancake house. Donald Antrim's The Verificationist is a deadly serious, desperately playful, off-the-wall, and perfectly on-target book permeated by the unlikely smell of maple syrup in the evening and the sharpened consciousness of a group of psychoanalysts.
Tom is our narrator -- a seemingly adequately analyzed psychotherapist who, during a nightlong pancake dinner with colleagues, finds himself locked in an embrace with Bernhardt, the towering father figure of the group. Bernhardt is merely trying to keep Tom from starting a food fight, but the effects are disastrous: in an out-of-body experience, Tom floats up to the ceiling and from there looks down on himself and his cronies. Over the course of the night, he watches as his friendships, his marriage, even his professional identity, unfold and unravel until, in a catastrophic and inevitable tandem ascent and regression, he loses his very sense of himself as a man.
Taking on psychoanalysis and sex, work and family, The Verificationist explodes old myths and creates new ones. It is a wildly imagined, superbly written novel from a writer whose work has been hailed as "gloriously unhinged" (San Francisco Chronicle).

Review:

The narrator of Donald Antrim's The Verificationist is a middle-aged psychotherapist who meets a handful of colleagues at a pancake house one evening to engage in the seemingly innocuous activity of socializing while eating stacks of fried batter. What commences is a psychosexual deadpan comedy fraught with academic grandstanding, subtle flirting, and lots of good eatin'. Before long, Tom decides to start a food fight, but is restrained in a bear hug by Bernhardt, the father figure of the group. Our hero then proceeds to have an out-of-body experience in which he eavesdrops on his cohorts and ruminates on such things as the very essence of the pancake:

We eat pancakes to escape loneliness, yet within moments we want nothing more than our freedom from ever having so much as thought about pancakes. Nothing can prevent us, after eating pancakes, from feeling the most awful regret. After eating pancakes, our great mission in life becomes the repudiation of the pancakes and everything served along with them, the bacon and the syrup and the sausage and coffee and jellies and jams. But these things are beneath mention, compared with the pancakes themselves. It is the pancake--Pancakes! Pancakes!--that we never learn to respect.
Antrim's prose, at home somewhere between the psychologist's couch and a diner's Naugahyde booth, follows this tack for just shy of 200 pages, without chapter or page breaks. Readers familiar with the writer's earlier novels, The Hundred Brothers and Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World, will spot this as his preferred modus operandi.

Tom, likewise, follows in the tradition of Antrim's other narrators--a timid yet well-meaning intellectual training his considerable observational and confessional skills upon a tableau at once pathetically banal and rife with meaning. Antrim has a talent for creating characters who speak contemporary psychobabble that falls far short of explaining the absurdity of their dilemmas. Rebecca, the pulchritudinous teenage waitress, and Escobar, Tom's suave Mediterranean friend, not only play their hour upon stage with earnest precision but serve to accentuate Tom's essentially pitiful nature. While Antrim's cast this time out is considerably downsized (literally 100 brothers appeared in The Hundred Brothers), he remains a writer who delights in bouncing disparate characters off one another with hilarious, disastrous results.

In plumbing the pathologies of millennial manhood, The Verificationist is part Robert Bly men's retreat, part sex comedy, and part doctoral thesis. It is served up like a combo platter, best enjoyed in a single sitting, and undeniably tasty. --Ryan Boudinot

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Warwick Books, is an Internet-only bookseller that specializes in hard-to-find books for avid readers and collectors. Many of our books are out of print. Specialties include literature, signed firsts, art and photography, design, illustrated books, cookbooks, field guides, children's books, needlecraft books, and Americana. We recently acquired a large private collection of books on military history. The focus is on World War II as well as aviation history. Warwick Books is a member of IOBA, the Independent Online Booksellers Association.

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