cover image Antkind


Charlie Kaufman. Random House, $28.99 (720p) ISBN 978-0-399-58968-3

Screenwriter/director Kaufman’s debut brims with screwball satire and provocative reflections on how art shapes people’s perception of the world. While visiting St. Augustine, Fla., to research a book, B. Rosenberg, a pretentious film historian and critic, crosses paths with Ingo Cutbirth, an elderly former child actor who shows B. an unnamed film created with stop-motion puppetry that was 90 years in the making and takes three months to watch. B. appraises the film (“about the artifice of fiction and the paucity of truth in our culture,” among many other things), as “the greatest cinematic masterpiece of perhaps all time.” After Cutbirth dies, he bequeaths the film to B., who loses it in a car fire and spends the rest of the novel consulting with therapists, desperate to reconstruct his experience of the film. Along the way, B. suffers a series of comic setbacks in his career and personal life, which leave him wondering, “Where does the movie end and my mind begin?” The Pynchonesque scope of Kaufman’s novel gives him liberty to have his opinionated narrator comment on innumerable cultural touchstones, especially in cinema, where B. throws shade with tongue firmly in cheek at filmmaker Charlie Kaufman, whom he derides as “a monster unaware of his staggering ineptitude.” B.’s outsized personality and his giddily freewheeling experiences make this picaresque irresistible. (May)