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The Verificationist by Donald Antrim
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The Verificationist (2000)

by Donald Antrim

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What an odd book. Not that it is necessarily bad. In fact, in the end, I enjoyed it. Although it is partly one big, long extended joke, which gets a little old about mid-way through. On the other hand, it's lucid, well-written, and in the end, it all sort of ties together really well, even though you could see the end coming a long way away.

It is undoubtedly the best book set in a pancake house that I have ever read. About to start a foodfight, the main character is embraced by a big fat guy who he both loves and hates and the thoughts and fantasies in his mind take over from there. There's obviously a lot more to this book that i'm obviously not getting, but i get enough of it to know there's something more. The good news is that it's written in a silly enough way that the author doesn't make you feel stupid if you don't get that other level.

The main character flies around the room for most of the book, and also a little outside and eventually asks a waitress to come fly with him which she does. And who doesn't have this fantasy everytime they're in a pancake house??? I mean, do you even have to write a book about it? i guess so. And then there's all those little relationships with his wife, his colleagues, his rivals which he explores in his mind which make you think-- am I, myself, the reader this petty and self-absorbed? The answer is--of course you are.

It's a good book. it's short. There are no chapter divisions. It reads fast. ( )
2 vote rventura | Mar 15, 2009 |
I'm always a bit leery of books in which characters start floating around out of their bodies, but I gave this a shot based on good reviews of both the novel and the author ... and, although it had it's moments, it turned into an incoherent mess by the end.

I suppose it's just barely conceivable that this incoherency is supposed to reflect on the main character's own breakdown, but, if so, it was so sloppily done that that it was virtually indistinguishable from plain old bad writing.

SPOILER BELOW
Worst of all, at the end, this turns out to be another of those stories that's all in the "mind" of a dead or dying protagonist ... a setup that, at this stage, has hardened into a full-blown cliche.

Yes, I know Philip Roth used it in his recent novel Indignation, which I gave 4 stars to, but I guess that's the difference between a master like Roth and a writer like Antrim, who just didn't seem to have a strong grasp on things in his book.

I can't recommend this one. ( )
1 vote KromesTomes | Oct 23, 2008 |
A truly dazzling modern tale. Destined to be a classic. My review:

http://www.free-times.com/Reviews/verification.html ( )
  RodneyWelch | May 18, 2006 |
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679769439, Paperback)

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

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:59:47 -0400)

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