Casually dazzling . . . thoroughly riveting. (A)” Entertainment Weekly
“[M]ysterious and compelling. . . . Krauss brings to her work a poet’s gift for seizing upon small but potent details. . . . [A] novel that . . . is hard to forget.” Los Angeles Times Book Review
“By turns creepy, witty, austere, and vibey. . . . A major contribution to the art of collective obliviousness, a lonely meditation on the nature of memory and loss.” Esquire
“[G]reat nuance and sophisticated prose that seduces you with its cadences. . . . You’ll savor the last page—and be hungry for future work from this talented author.” The Washington Post Book World
“A provocative first novel. . .beautifully written, intellectually engaging. . .Krauss has a remarkable feel for what is ultimately unfathomable.”–Chicago Tribune
"[A] deft comedy of unfamiliarity... [A] lucid consideration of the metaphysics of mind-shuffling... Krauss celebrates the anything-but-simple art of human connection." –San Francisco Chronicle
“A meditative debut novel about the pleasures and dangers of forgetting. . .a chilling addition to the annals of amnesia lit." –The Village Voice
“A deeply philosophical novel, one that strikes upon the nagging paradoxes of modern life. . .With the character of Samson Greene, Nicole Krauss puts a human face on these concerns, and–in prose that shimmers with intelligence–tells us his potent and memorable story.” –The Sun-Sentinel
“Krauss’s work is both dreamy and precise, direct and mysterious, like a more austere Ellen Gilchrist or Ian McEwan.” –Bookforum
“Memory and the ramifications of losing it are explored with all the precision of a CAT scan. . . . Charges bravely into a tangle of difficult questions.” –San Diego Union-Tribune
“An evocative, finely written first novel that is a true work of fiction.” –A.M. Homes
“Unique. . . . Intriguing. . . . It is impossible to read this book without wondering what you would do in the same situation; that reason alone is enough to pick it up.” –The Denver Post
“Ambitious, cohesive, intelligent, precise and accomplished. . . . Remarkably fresh. . . . Everything in this novel works.” –The Raleigh News & Observer
“An incisive novel of self-invention.” –Details
“A sharp, impressive first novel that leaves one looking forward to her next outing.” –Santa Fe New Mexican
“Nicole Krauss, with this remarkably felt, sharp-witted debut novel, strides into the forecourt of American letters.” –Susan Sontag
When a tumor in his brain is discovered and removed, Samson Greene, an English professor in his thirties, finds himself afflicted by a peculiar kind of amnesia: he cannot remember anything that happened after he was twelve. Even as he struggles to connect with his wife, Anna, he thinks that he might prefer the blankness of his new life. Samson's loss takes place against a backdrop of secret experiments on human memory and the social implications of atomic testing, but it is his shadow-filled scrutiny of intimacy -- as he wonders why he might have married this beautiful stranger, and whether he can love her -- that is the book's real strength.
This elegiac first novel achieves a kind of beguiling dreamy tenderness as it tells the story of Samson Greene, a seemingly happy, well-adjusted English professor whose life is thrown wildly out of kilter by a small brain tumor. It is discovered only after he suddenly leaves home and is found wandering in the Nevada desert. Once the tumor is removed, he can remember nothing beyond the age of 12, so that his adult existence, his friends, his professional life and especially his wife, Anna, are a profound mystery to him. He and Anna try to resume their lives, but it is no good pretending that things can be as they were. Eventually Samson leaves again, this time for an experimental research station, also in the Western desert, where attempts are being made to graft the memories of one human into another's mind. Samson becomes friends with another resident at the station, an elderly eccentric called Donald, but when Donald's memories are grafted into Samson's mind, they are of a test nuclear explosion he witnessed as a young soldier. Adrift again, and even more disillusioned, Samson convinces himself he must find his medical records and also determine where his dead mother is buried; he succeeds in both endeavors, one with the aid of a drunken teenager in Las Vegas, the other with a senile uncle and achieves a kind of hard-won reconciliation to his lot. This outline of the story suggests a somber tale full of dark symbolism, but in fact it is surprisingly lighthearted, sharply observant and often touching. Krauss is a sure writer thoroughly in control of her material, and she creates, in Donald and Uncle Max, a pair of memorable characters. Only the ending, from the viewpoint of Anna, the lost wife, fails to bring quite the expected epiphany. (May 21) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Imagine losing 24 years of memory everything that happened to you since just before starting seventh grade and the despair and utter loneliness you would feel when the memory of the girl you kissed at age 12 remains vivid while your wife is a stranger. This is Samson Greene after surgery to remove a brain tumor. Hearing of Samson's condition, a genius scientist asks him to participate in an experiment that consists of transferring another man's memory into Samson's emptiness. Samson doesn't deliberate long, as it sounds better than the limbo in which he exists, but the procedure goes terrifyingly awry. Trying to cope, Samson kidnaps (rescues?) Great Uncle Max from a nursing home in an attempt to find the burial place of his mother, whose death he cannot remember. Poet and critic Krauss has written a wonderful debut, full of shimmering sentences and real emotion, that raises provocative questions: Are we just a combination of habits that enable others to believe they know us? Is empathy possible without the other's memories? This debut will be welcomed in all collections of serious fiction. Judith Kicinski, Sarah Lawrence Coll. Lib., Bronxville, NY Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
There are some lovely moments (and echoes of early Saul Bellow) in this interestingly conceived first novel, but its somewhat attenuated account of an amnesiac's quest for his missing years trails off into improbability and inconclusiveness. The story begins in a desert near Las Vegas where Columbia University English professor (and California native) Samson Greene is found wandering, bereft of memory or purpose. He's returned home to his frantic wife Anna, and undergoes successful surgery for the removal of a benign brain tumor-but thereafter cannot remember his life beyond the age of 12. For example, he no longer knows Anna, and they gradually drift apart. While in therapy he learns of an experimental medical procedure promising to assist memory, and travels west again, to become a volunteer patient. Hesitant relationships-with the research scientist who proposes to "implant" in his brain the memories of another man, as well as with his chosen "Input" (i.e., memory "donor"), an amusingly Babbitt-like businessman, among others more briefly encountered-are prelude to a deeply ironic "awakening" as the burden of what Samson now "remembers" propels him on yet another quest: for the grave of his mother, whose recent death lies hidden among the scattered fragments of his recent years. Krauss tells her strange story-a knotty combination of psychological novel and cautionary science-fiction tale-with considerable finesse, crafting graceful compound-complex sentences charged with understated emotion and given subtle twists of meaning by frequent qualifications and reversals. Samson's captivity and confusion are quite movingly rendered, especially during the lengthy denouement, which introducesthe affecting figure of "Sammy's" senile great-uncle Max, himself a "prisoner" (in a nursing home), likewise robbed of his memory. Alas, following this vivid sequence, Krauss seems uncertain how to end her story. A bit too theme-driven and intermittently static, but Krauss is a highly intelligent writer. It'll be interesting to see what she turns to next.