Phantom Pain

Phantom Pain

by Arnon Grunberg
     
 

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Listen to Arnon Grunberg discuss Phantom Pain on "The Connection" with Dick Gordon.

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 Mehlmanís publisher is only interested in his long overdue novel,

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Overview

Listen to Arnon Grunberg discuss Phantom Pain on "The Connection" with Dick Gordon.

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 Mehlmanís publisher is only interested in his long overdue novel, since the people donít 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Phantom Pain is the bitterly funny but unpublished manuscript of Mehlmanís autobiography. In it, he tells the parallel stories of his decaying marriage and his puzzling affair with a woman he meets by chance and who accompanies him on the road. Their journey takes them on a chauffeur-driven, midnight run away from New York City to Atlantic City where they gamble away most of Mehlmanís 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 Mehlmanís sonís account of his famous father, this novel-within-a-novel is a darkly hilarious tale of a writerís fall and his subsequent rise. Phantom Pain has all the characteristic mixture of slapstick and stark despair that has made Arnon Grunberg one of the most interesting, certainly the funniest, and arguably the best Dutch writer working today.

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Editorial Reviews

Kirkus Reviews
Dutch author Grunberg (Silent Extras, 2001, etc.) traces the rise and fall and rise of a literary writer whose sine waves of desperation are ultimately evened out by his unlikely authorship of a cookbook. The novel takes the form of Robert Mehlman's "unpublished autobiography," presented by son Harpo. Seemingly intended as an explanation to his son of the writer's bizarre behavior over the course of two decades, its main concerns are Mehlman's love life and the creation of his cookbook. (Asides cover everything from his multiple affairs to book projects both realized and forgotten.) As the narrative begins, the author's unstable marriage to a psychiatrist he calls the "Fairytale Princess" is disrupted by the arrival of the "Empty Vessel," a woman who makes cappuccinos at the local coffeebar. Together, the Empty Vessel and Mehlman spend a directionless few days in Atlantic City, gambling away the last of his money even as his credit cards are overdrawn. The affair meanders here and there, with no particular purpose apparent other than to give Mehlman a chance to toss off such continental-sounding epigrams as "hate is the sea into which longing flows down together." Meanwhile, having agreed to write a "literary cookbook," he places a newspaper ad looking for contributions. Polish-Jewish Cooking in 69 Recipes becomes an international sensation, earning Mehlman all the money he'll ever need. The volume is hailed as a monument of reconciliation between Germans and Jews that will allow both to "keep the home fires burning after Auschwitz"- a mildly tasteless jape typical of the gauzy brand of humor peddled here. The text seems ably translated, if only because it's difficult to imagine arendering more apt to the original that might have restored such a desultory work to any kind of greatness. Hard to believe this listless, modestly amusing tale won the Netherlands' prestigious AKO Prize. Agency: Donadio & Olson

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781590511268
Publisher:
Other Press, LLC
Publication date:
05/28/2004
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
288
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.20(d)

Meet the Author

Arnon Grunberg is also the author of Blue Mondays, an international bestseller that won the Anton Wachter Prize for a debut novel. Phantom Pain won the AKO Prize, which is the Dutch equivalent of the Booker. Grunberg currently lives in New York City.

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