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The Mayor's Tongue

The Mayor's Tongue

1.0 1
by Nathaniel Rich

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One of the most original, dazzling, and critically acclaimed debut novels this year.

In this debut novel, hailed by Stephen King as ?terrifying, touching, and wildly funny,? the stories of two strangers, Eugene Brentani and Mr. Schmitz, interweave. What unfolds is a bold reinvention of storytelling in which Eugene, a devotee of the reclusive and monstrous


One of the most original, dazzling, and critically acclaimed debut novels this year.

In this debut novel, hailed by Stephen King as ?terrifying, touching, and wildly funny,? the stories of two strangers, Eugene Brentani and Mr. Schmitz, interweave. What unfolds is a bold reinvention of storytelling in which Eugene, a devotee of the reclusive and monstrous author, Constance Eakins, and Mr. Schmitz, who has been receiving ominous letters from an old friend, embark from New York for Italy, where the line between imagination and reality begins to blur and stories take on a life of their own.

Editorial Reviews

Stephen King
I read The Mayor's Tongue with ever-increasing delight, rooting with all my heart for the young protagonist on his near-mythic quest. This is an elegantly-structured, brilliantly-told novel, by turns terrifying, touching, and wildly funny, and always generous and magical. The Mayor's Tongue is about how we talk to each other and how make-believe helps us get on with our lives; most of all, it's about love. Kudos to Nathaniel Rich, who has created a brave book, a novel brimming with brio.
Gary Shteyngart
Ambitious, intelligent, hallucinatory, and, most important: heartfelt. Here is a young writer who is not afraid to give literature a kick in the pants, a writer deep in the thrall of language.
Colum McCann
The Mayor's Tongue reminds me of Peter Carey's early work-the highest possible praise. It presents a young writer of deep ambition and imagination working with a kind of unnerving maturity. It's clear from the very first pages that Nathaniel Rich can really write, and he proceeds to unfurl a fascinating mšbius strip of a novel, its dual narratives swerving and twisting until they've come together in a way that seems all at once impossible and endlessly elegant. (Colum McCann, author of Zoli and This Side of Brightness)
Carolyn See
The Mayor's Tongue is a goofy, playful, highly intellectual novel about serious subjects—the failure of language, for one, and how we cope with that failure in order to keep ourselves sane. It's speculative fiction as well, and owes considerable literary debts to Luigi Pirandello's Six Characters in Search of an Author, James Hilton's Lost Horizon and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, in ways I can't mention without giving away the plot.
—The Washington Post
Sophie Gee
…the novel has a vague, dreamlike quality: meaningful but undetermined, intense but unfocused…when Rich writes of his characters, their affections, their impulses and failings, he writes generously and movingl…Surprising friendships, small intimacies of fidelity and kindness, large gestures of joy: The Mayor's Tongue does all these so well, pointing the way to Nathaniel Rich's promise as a fiction writer.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Two parallel missing person searches hurtle from New York to Italy in Paris Revieweditor Rich's surreal debut. Eugene Brentani, avoiding his lonely father and Sutton Place upbringing just after college, ends up in far Northern Manhattan working for Abraham Chisholm, the biographer of Connie Eakins-the author on whom Eugene wrote his college thesis. Abraham's lovely daughter, Sonia, goes missing in Italy while searching for the presumed-dead Eakins; Eugene, who met Sonia in New York and fell instantly in love with her, jumps at the opportunity to retrieve her. Once in Milan, Eugene finds danger lurking around every corner. Alternating chapters tell of elderly New York widower Mr. Schmitz (as he's called throughout), whose friend Rutherford has left for Italy, and whose letters from there are troubling. Mr. Schmitz sets off for Milan, partially to help Rutherford reclaim the Italy the two men knew as WWII soldiers. Rich seems as interested in exploring different forms of miscommunication as in developing character and plot, and the two central mysteries, both centering on books and story-telling, have a distinctly Borgesian flavor to them. Rich is an impressive stylist, but this debut's whole ends up less than the sum of its disparate parts, which a surprise ending fails to unify. (Apr.)

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Kirkus Reviews
A loopy play on literary life from Paris Review editor Rich. Constance Eakins, "a colossus of the last American century," was, before his death at 82, ferociously at work on The Mayor's Tongue, the 26th tome in an august career highlighted by his major trilogy, The Slayed, The Slaying and The Slaughter, just released by Modern Library, with a foreword by the esteemed Director of the Eakins Center at Yale. This kind of bogus pomposity plainly delights the author. The book of the title-and the mayor-and the tongue-are largely mythic, part of the strange quest of white-haired, book-mad Chisholm, Eakins's fiercest fan. A recent emigre from the Dominican Republic, Alvaro, a former furniture mover, is commissioned to catalogue all of Chisholm's Eakinsiana, for him an oddly delicate pursuit. Alvaro's tale, including his attempt to have his own literary opus translated, despite his translator's total ignorance of Alvaro's Dominican dialect, alternates chapters with the tale of two congenial and truly odd oldsters, Mr. Schmitz and Rutherford. Schmitz's beloved wife Agnes is nearing death and, desperate for Rutherford's solace, Schmitz hunts him everywhere. But, after the pair's long conversations-highlights include the fact that "Ferrara" is the most difficult Italian city name to pronounce-Rutherford vanishes. The novel's narratives play off each other, offering literary allusions to H.L. Mencken, Simone de Beauvoir and Yasunari Kawabata. A debut novel that will appeal most to punch-drunk bibliophiles. Agent: Elyse Cheney/Elyse Cheney Agency

Product Details

Penguin Group (USA)
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
5.76(w) x 8.50(h) x 1.08(d)
Age Range:
18 - 14 Years

Meet the Author

Nathaniel Rich has published essays and criticism in The New York Review of Books, Vanity Fair, The New York Times Book Review, The Los Angeles Times Book Review, The Nation, The New Republic, and Slate. He is an editor at The Paris Review.

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Mayor's Tongue 1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Overby More than 1 year ago
I struggled to get past 50 pages...this book is unbelievably tedious and boring and with no visible plot. But that's okay, because it's full of completely unlikable characters you don't want to read about anyway.