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Atmospheric Disturbances (2008)

by Rivka Galchen

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
8804824,720 (3.16)38
When Dr. Leo Liebenstein's wife disappears, she leaves behind a single, confounding clue: a woman who looks, talks, and behaves almost exactly like her and even audaciously claims to be her. While everyone else is fooled by this imposter, Leo knows better. Certain that his real wife is alive and in hiding, Leo embarks on a quixotic journey to reclaim his lost love. From the streets of New York to the southernmost reaches of Patagonia, Leo's quest becomes a test of how far he is willing to take his struggle against the seemingly uncontestable truth he knows in his heart to be false.… (more)
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    hairball: This is the better book.
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» See also 38 mentions

English (47)  French (1)  All languages (48)
Showing 1-5 of 47 (next | show all)
I think I would've liked this book a lot more if someone had told me to read it in terms of love. I think I was reading it as more of a mystery, waiting for a super twist that would put everything in its place.

Still, it's an interesting book. Galchen is a clever writer and there were many individual sentences and paragraphs that I just loved for the way they twisted logic and convention. This book, to me, is kind of about rational insanity. And I've said it before, but I'll say it again: THINKY DEATH!

As for the shelf I put it on, it's not really magical realism at all, but I'd recommend it to anyone who likes to follow characters who see the world in a skewed way, or, you know, characters who inhabit a slightly skewed world. Also maybe psychology majors. ( )
  LibrarianDest | Jan 3, 2024 |
Well written. Unfortunately the plot starts to unwind at the end. It sinks beneath the technical details of meteorology and the main characters obsession with it.
( )
  dogboi | Sep 16, 2023 |
Well that was quite odd. The basic premise of the book was well-done: a psychiatrist's descent into psychosis. Here Dr. Galchen's medical background really shines from the accuracy with which she portrays her protagonist's failed reality checking and lack of insight, to the subtle historic clues that suggest a schizophreniform personality (excessive paranoia, overvalued ideas), Galchen parades nearly every possible positive psychotic symptom. Leo experiences thought insertion, overvalued ideas, pressure speech with train of thought patterns, hallucinosis, and delusions of every flavor. It's all done organically, realistically and from a first person perspective. While unique and originally fun as a concept, once Leo finishes his descent into psychosis, the plot doesn't really go anywhere, and I found the last 25% or so of the book dragged.

What really struck me though, almost immediately, was the inclusion of Tzvi Gal-Chen as a character. "How odd, Gal-Chen, that sounds familiar," I thought, then remembered that the book was by Rivka Galchen. I then checked the acknowledgements, yup, she includes Tzvi in there. A quick google search revealed that Tzvi Gal-Chen is Rivka's (deceased) father (But no information about the surname spelling discrepancy). The pictures of him in the book, citations of his research and figures from his papers are all real, as is the description of him and his computer programmer wife living in Oklahoma with their two kids (Google has no opinion as to whether Rivka and her brother were indeed spoiled, bad at soccer, and good at math). In an interview, Rivka mentioned that readers rarely notice but for her the inclusion of her father is the largest part of the book. Well, I noticed and for me, it loomed large, as you can tell by the amount of googling it provoked. It's just such a strange decision: why include one's dead father in an otherwise non-autobiographical novel, as the hallucination of the psychotic protagonist? To make the reader feel like they're going crazy and overvaluing ideas? To invoke a Freudian feel wherein the reader sits around asking "but what does she mean by her dead father?" It's so very weird and it completely broke my ability to otherwise concentrate on the novel at all.

What I did appreciate even more knowing that Rivka grew up with a meteorologist for a father was her obvious love of language. It was clear that she had been rolling around words and turns of phrase in her head for a long time, taking them in and out of context, so when she got the chance to explore every possible meaning of every phrase, she really made the technical language sing. ( )
  settingshadow | Aug 19, 2023 |
Freely acknowledged: I probably don't get this book.

I'm not saying I don't understand the narrative, or the interaction between "atmospheres" on several different physical, emotional, and intellectual levels. But if the inciting event is metaphorical, that I'm having a difficult time finding the emotional wavelength that ties the rest of the narrative together, and if it is literal, then I'm not sure what to make of the ending.

Maybe Red Pill wore me out enough that I'm not up for more mental illness narratives yet, or maybe my hatred for novels written by men depicting mentally ill women has an analogue dislike in the opposite direction, but I didn't find anything in the novel persuasive in terms of deciphering my own brain or by comparison to how any of the (many) mentally ill people I've known attempt to explain themselves. ( )
  danieljensen | May 25, 2023 |
Murakami meets Jonathan Safran Foer, in some ways. It will be interesting to see where future work takes Galchen: her own voice and style are definitely here, but I think in some ways she was borrowing a lot and falling back on some surreal, almost Borges-like, scenes as safety nets when the plot was getting out of her hands or else needed further prodding. Still, this is a very impressive debut novel and a fun, dizzying read. ( )
  proustitute | Apr 2, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 47 (next | show all)
It’s unusual — in fact (why be coy?), it’s extremely rare — to come across a first novel by a woman writer that concerns itself with such quirky, philosophical, didactic explorations; a novel in which the heart and the brain vie for the role of protagonist, and the brain wins.
 
Meteorology, in Galchen's hands, becomes a fertile field, yielding insights into emotion and, in particular, the anxiety caused by knowing that we can never truly fathom the person we love.
 
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Depuis le premier modèle de prédiction numérique, la prévision des flux à grande échelle a connu des progrès continus. Mais, à l'échelle humaine (c'est-à-dire la mésosphère), on n'a constaté pratiquement aucun progrès. On a évoqué plusieurs raisons [...], mais la plus évidente (à mon sens, du moins) est que nous ne pouvons réduire le temps du lendemain (ou de l'heure qui suit) car nous ne savons pas avec suffisamment de précision le temps qu'il fait à l'instant même.
Tzvi Gal-Chen, « Initialisation de modèles à l'échelle mésosphérique : l'impact possible des données obtenues par télédétection »

Il se peut que l'amitié se nourrisse d'observation et de conversation, mais l'amour naît et se nourrit d'interprétation silencieuse. L'être aimé [...] exprime un monde possible inconnu de nous [...] qu'il faut déchiffrer.
Gilles Deleuze, Proust et les signes
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Last December a woman entered my apartment who looked exactly like my wife.
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When Dr. Leo Liebenstein's wife disappears, she leaves behind a single, confounding clue: a woman who looks, talks, and behaves almost exactly like her and even audaciously claims to be her. While everyone else is fooled by this imposter, Leo knows better. Certain that his real wife is alive and in hiding, Leo embarks on a quixotic journey to reclaim his lost love. From the streets of New York to the southernmost reaches of Patagonia, Leo's quest becomes a test of how far he is willing to take his struggle against the seemingly uncontestable truth he knows in his heart to be false.

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