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Phantom Pain by Arnon Grunberg
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Phantom Pain

by Arnon Grunberg

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How fair is it to judge a book according to how memorable it is?

Here is a book I read last year, and forgot to review at the time. Since then I have entirely forgotten it. Even the back cover fails to remind me. It has vanished from my memory, and to revive it I would have to start reading the book again. And even then, how far would I have to read before I remembered? A page? Ten pages? Half the book? And what kind of memory would I retrieve? A cloudy thought about how I felt when I finished the book? Some particular scene, an insignificant detail or phrase? What comprises an adequate memory of a book?

I don't read a lot of fiction by some people's standards; I try to read a book a week. That means this book is now buried by at least fifty, and possibly hundreds, of books I have read since then. I will never remember it, and -- the painful truth of the marketplace -- now I judge the book because it has failed to stay in my memory.

The editor of "Poetry" once told me he reads 60,000 poems a year. In my job, I see about that many images (paintings, visual artworks). By comparison I only read 50 or so novels every year. There isn't that much competition, and a good novel really should be able to stay in my mind, even faintly. This one did not. ( )
  JimElkins | Jul 24, 2009 |
2e; fl. 39,95; van Ma V., Sinterklaas; 02.12.00
  fransvuister | Aug 29, 2006 |
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'Ik heb aanleg voor het koningshuis', zei Robert G. Mehlman op een avond.
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"A one-time literary novelist of some respectability, now brought low by the double insult of obscurity and crippling debt, Robert G. Mehlman is a man in need of money and recognition, fast. But Mehlman's publisher is only interested in his long overdue novel, since the people don't want short stories, and his portfolio was liquidated months ago. So, it is to culinary writing that he turns. A practiced decadent, a habitual spendthrift, and a serial womanizer, he has, ostensibly, all the right qualities. But the path to fame is never a smooth one." "Phantom Pain is the unpublished manuscript of novelist Robert G. Mehlman's autobiography. In it, Mehlman tells the parallel stories of his decaying marriage and his puzzling affair with a woman he meets by chance and who impulsively accompanies him on the road. Their journey takes them on a chaffeur-driven, midnight run away from New York City to Atlantic City where they gamble away most of Mehlman's remaining funds and then North, to Albany, where he finds unlikely salvation and the inspiration for his book, Polish-Jewish Cuisine in 69 Recipes." "Framed by Mehlman's son's account of his famous father, this novel-within-a-novel is a tale of a writer's fall and his subsequent rise."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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