Andrew’s Brain

E.L. Doctorow. Random, $26 (224p) ISBN 978-1-4000-6881-4
In his newest novel, Doctorow (Homer & Langley) introduces an intriguing protagonist who poses sweeping questions about the composition of consciousness, the reliability of memory, and the existence of free will, and asks them again and again, sometimes philosophically, sometimes with a sense of alarm. The novel is structured as an extended series of conversations between Andrew, a cognitive neuroscientist by training, and an unnamed man who initially appears to be his psychotherapist. The book opens with Andrew’s description of leaving his infant daughter with an ex-wife. When the baby’s mother dies, Andrew claims to be too incapacitated by grief and self-doubt to care for the child. Paradoxically, Andrew—who refers to himself in both the first and the third person—also insists that he’s incapable of emotion. It’s not clear how much time has passed since he gave up the child, or how much time is passing as he tells his story, or if time for Andrew is linear at all. He recycles and synthesizes snippets of recollection, sometimes with details supplied by his questioner, and as he does he embellishes his history and reshapes its chronology. Despite their expansive themes and culturally significant imagery, Andrew’s revelations are little more than clues to an amusing, if tedious, puzzle. Andrew believes that the brain cannot know itself, but the question is whether the reader can know Andrew’s. (Jan.)
Reviewed on: 08/05/2013
Release date: 01/14/2014
Genre: Fiction
Compact Disc - 4 pages - 978-0-8041-2775-2
Open Ebook - 95 pages - 978-0-8129-9504-6
Paperback - 224 pages - 978-0-8129-8098-1
Paperback - 208 pages - 978-0-8041-9448-8
Pre-Recorded Audio Player - 978-1-4676-6487-5
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Audio book sample courtesy of Penguin Random House Audio
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