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Andrew's Brain

Andrew's Brain [Kindle Edition]

E. L. Doctorow
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Product Description


Mind-bending and brilliant . . . an astonishing range of modes: vaudeville humour, tragic romance, philosophical speculation . . . it fizzes with intellectual energy, verbal pyrotechnics and satiric flair. It is a late-career tour de force (Sunday Times)

Assured and visually striking (Independent)

Ambitious, finely wrought, posing questions that cut to the heart of identity and storytelling (Daily Mail)

[Doctorow] is a brilliant, careful observer . . . he has a poet's flair (Times Literary Supplement)

Assured in combining the historical and grand with the ordinary and affecting - this is clearly an E. L. Doctorow novel . . . For more than five decades, Doctorow has written novels that jolt American history to life (New Statesman)

A sort of Portnoy's Complaint for the brain. Funny, thought-provoking and profound. (Financial Times)

A literary imagination that is still probing its capacities. Doctorow, in his ninth decade, is clearly not happy to rest on those considerable laurels (Telegraph)

Book Description

The brilliant new novel by an American master

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 961 KB
  • Print Length: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group (16 Jan 2014)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00DI7HKG4
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #84,439 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
3.3 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By Denis Vukosav TOP 50 REVIEWER
'Andrew's Brain' written by E.L. Doctorow is new novel from one of the greatest American novelists of our time, of somewhat lower quality compared to his earlier works, but still novel that will appeal to you if you have enough patience.

The novel main character named Andrew is a professor of cognitive science. Therefore it is logical that the brain is the center of his interests, someone else, as well as his own and due to that with this novel Doctorow challenged both his main character’s and reader’s mind. Andrew will bring the contents of his brain before the reader, a combination of different recollections of events that he has experienced; while novel is written in form of monologue and dialogue Andrew is having with a patient interviewer, most likely a psychiatrist.

In his story Andrew will touch his turbulent life, the loss of his family members, the two women and daughters, as well as some other unbelievable events such as his companionship with George W. Bush and his close associates Chaingang and Rumbum in The White House…

'Andrew's Brain' is a great example of the novel in which the reader is not entirely sure until its end is this a great and incredible life story, or the ramblings of a demented man who due to some crisis has found the salvation in the creation of an entirely incredible world in which he is the main character. The reader is slowly losing confidence in the narrator and his objectivity although all through its 200 pages while exploring Andrew’s brain will seek for confirmation whether it's really possible that his story is true.

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4 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars AMAZING and beautiful 17 Jan 2014
By emma who reads a lot TOP 500 REVIEWER VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Andrew is talking to a therapist. He's talking because his life has been a series of alarming, even horrifying accidents, in which somehow Andrew always seems to be implicated. The novel begins with him on a snowy night, trying to confide care of his young baby to his ex-wife; the book winds through his whole life and all its tragedies.

What elevates this interesting concept to great art, though, is Doctorow's execution - which is just superb. The clarity of the thought in this book is extraordinary; at the same time, we are drawn into 'Andrew's Brain' about as well as you could possibly hope for in a novel - you feel completely involved in the character, in the novel's action, and then also observing it, with a coolness that matches Andrew's own inability to respond emotionally to his life's events.

Andrew becomes a way, also, of analysing some of the events of recent years, so that there is even a historical and political element to the text. And by the end you are left with a whole series of unresolved but fascinating questions. Who is Andrew, really? Who is he really talking to? What is the significance of Andrew's relationship with his college roommate? (I don't want to make spoilers.) And most of all, what really happened?

You could read this book in an evening: I did. But you won't forget it fast.
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0 of 6 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars I'm struggling 11 Mar 2014
By Staran
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I'm 35% into this book and I just don't get it!! The book I read prior to this was The Book Thief and I loved it, couldn't put it down. I almost dread going to bed! Hopefully it will get better
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.5 out of 5 stars  198 reviews
106 of 119 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Two and one half stars 12 Dec 2013
By Dr. J. J. Kregarman - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
E.L. Doctorow, in my opinion, is one of the greatest living American novelists. Everything of his I have read until starting on Andrew's Brain, I have enjoyed and admired. While admiring parts of this opus as witty and momentarily brilliant, I neither enjoyed it or considered it, as a whole, to be ranked among his best works. Really, it's a bit of a muchness to have to read almost half of a novel to begin to get involved! Were this not a book by E.L. Doctorow, I would have abandoned it well before that point. As a vine club member, and in respect to this author I needed to push on to the end. If you are a fan of the author, you'll read this book, no matter what I write. If you are new to him look elsewhere for your first experience reading him!
46 of 52 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting new Doctorow! 6 Dec 2013
By brjoro - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I would call myself a casual E.L. Doctorow reader. I've read all his classics, and a smattering of his other works. Probably 8-10 total. So I'm far from an expert. I can say that this is pretty unique from other Doctorow titles I've read, it's a different approach for him. 'Andrew's Brain' is certainly an interesting read, it's only 200 pages and I finished it on a DC-NYC Amtrak train up and back. It flows well, but it's not necessarily an 'easy read.' The narrative is not all that compelling, it's a man (Andrew) telling his analyst about his life, his marriages, etc. But the writing is fantastic, the prose is great, and the plot twists take the story in some interesting directions. As a fan of good fiction I highly recommend this.
68 of 80 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Cold hearted orb that rules the night, Removes the colours from our sight. 31 Dec 2013
By Leonard Fleisig - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Red is grey and yellow white. But we decide which is right. And which is an illusion? "

In his book The joys of Yiddish, Leo Rosten describes the difference between a schlemiel and a schlimazel. Both types of people suffer from chronic bad luck of one sort or another. The difference is that while the schlemiel is the type of person that trips while carrying a tray of soup in the cafeteria, the schlimazel is the person it lands on. In E.L. Doctorow's compelling new novel, Andrew's Brain, the protagonist Andrew is the schlemiel whilst all those closest to him end up being schlimazels.

Although not technically a mystery this book is one which can easily be spoiled by too full a description of the narrative. So I will start with some broad brush strokes and leave the rest to be discovered by the reader.

Andrew is talented and smart; he is a cognitive scientist with multiple degrees. His life, if his interior monologue is to be believed, has been dogged by a series of unfortunate events. Those events have left him physically unharmed. The physical harm involved has always struck those closest to him. The story is told mostly through the voice of Andrew's interior monologue and in snippets of conversation with another person, perhaps a psychiatrist or some other person tasked with getting Andrew's story told.

But the lack of physical harm is no indicator that Andrew has not been damaged and it appeared clear to me from the start that Andrew's monologue was really getting to the edges of his role in these events. Doctorow paints around those edges and it appeared to me that the reader is left to cut through those edges and find some way to burrow between the lines and dig deeper into Andrew's brain.
Andrew's Brain is one of those books that had me puzzled from the start. After the story ended I was still puzzled in many respects but it was a puzzlement that left me thinking about the story and its meaning well after I finished reading it.

I had a visceral reaction to the story. Unsettled as I may have been at not having Andrew's deeper thoughts explained to me it left me no alternative but to personalize the events and substitute my brain for Andrew's. What would I have thought, how would I have reacted, how would I attribute fault, if fault there was, for the events that transpired around me. Would I blame myself? Did my thoughts presage or facilitate these events? Lastly, and this is the key question the book posed for me: would I have stayed sane and would my own `interior monologue' represent a memory of actual events or would it represent some parallel universe of my own creation designed solely to protect me from some paralyzing pain induced by these events. Would I be cognitive enough to know the difference?

As noted above, it is hard to discuss this book adequately without laying out critical spoilers. And that for me is an indication of the power of the book. It is a book that is enriched by discussing it afterwards. I do not belong to any book clubs but this seems to me to be a book club's dream, one that would create a rich discussion in which it is likely that every member will have a different vision of what it said and what it meant to them.

I very much enjoyed Andrew's Brain. It is a book I continue to think about and for this reason alone I have no hesitation in recommending it to anyone willing to put their brain in Andrew's place, look at a life filled with sadness, and reflect upon how their own brain would hold up to the stress.

L. Fleisig
21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Superficial 3 Jan 2014
By JoeV - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Andrew’s Brain is a stream of consciousness/narrative/biography of the title’s character, presumably while in a psychologist’s office – although maybe not - as Andrew “explains” what led to his possible mental break-down. This pseudo-conundrum/enigma – reality versus imagination – the first plot twist/device – at least for this reader – that simply doesn’t work. (For instance this is not the The Sound and The Fury or As I Lay Dying – which may be good or bad news depending on your reading preferences.)

The ensuing tale of Andrew’s life reads like a set of observations/notes simply cobbled together. The topics included – love, romance, relationships, parenthood, academia, politics, tragedy, Andrew’s “brush with greatness” and even the philosophical mind versus brain dilemma – all potentially interesting – never get their due in the telling here. The story-line jumps from one short anecdote/memory to the next and left this reader wishing for more depth – Andrew’s Brain more an outline than a novel. Hence my disappointment.
25 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Memory, Imagination, Cognition, the Brain--Powerful MIx 4 Dec 2013
By Thomas F. Dillingham - Published on
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
A few pages into this new Doctorow novel, I was reminded of one of his regular narrative strategies--that is, he often begins his novels by creating confusion in the reader's mind. The narrator's voice shifts, the chronology is confusing or just random, the location of the action (or discussion) is unclear, and so on. The characteristics of narrative that give the reader a sense of where and who and what and why are scrambled. It takes a while for the attentive reader to sort them out. This happens at the beginning of Andrew's Brain, but it's not a longterm problem with the novel. As it happens, the reader soon learns that the voice of Andrew is speaking to (or in some cases writing to) his analyst, an unnamed presence who responds with questions (often left unanswered) and occasional comments about Andrew's state of mind, motives, good or bad choices. Andrew tells the analyst about the failure of his first marriage and his panicky effort to have his first (now former) wife take over the care of his infant daughter by his second wife, who is deceased. We learn all this if we read attentively through the first sections of the novel. I would add that there are no spoilers here.

With reference to spoilers, I have to say that I hesitate to tell much of anything more about the events Andrew narrates to his analyst, other than that he tells the story of how he meets and marries his second wife. Beyond that, it would be unfair to reveal the sequence of events that form the main body of the narrative of this uneven but finally very powerful novel. (I started early thinking it might be a 2 star, as I was exasperated by the triviality of much of Andrew's narrative and the too-clever devices Doctorow was using to mix the chronology and the characters to sustain uncertainty and suspense. But once the latter half of the narrative was under weigh, I was ready for a 3 star and even considered 5 star at some point near the end, but 4 seems reasonable.)

Andrew, by the way, is a "cognitive scientist," and he is talking with a psychoanalyst. Early in their discussions, he comments:
"Your field is the mind, mine is the brain. Will the two ever meet?" This question underlies much of the speculation that Andrew attempts in his professional research and in his teaching, about which we learn a bit as the novel continues. Andrew is interested in the ways the brain works, how its constitution and structure affect the thought and actions of human beings and other animals, and so forth. Further, Andrew is convinced that he is, in some way, a person who causes disasters--from the trivial, such as breaking a piece of chalk as he is trying to write his name on the chalkboard, to the fatal, as in his conviction that he was in some ways personally and causally responsible for several deaths, as well as some serious accidents. This conviction is based on his observations of his coincidental presence at, or involvement with, the fatal events. But this novel is in no sense a mystery thriller, as I have seen it incorrectly described. It is a drama of perception, precise and distorted, clarified or confused. Andrew is, as we learn early, driven to distraction, possibly to what we would call madness, by the cognitive dissonance that occurs when he realizes his well-intentioned or entirely innocent, or just casual actions result in calamity, usually for others.

Doctorow unleashes some of the most dramatic and traumatizing writing of his career in this novel (yes, I have read all his other novels and some short stories), and that is what must be reserved for the reader to find out. Having said that, why not 5 stars? It would be nice to be able to rank the novel at that level, but the deficiencies of the first third, nearly first half, of the novel are real, and very disappointing. But it is a very good example of a novel that should NOT be treated according to the "rule" that many people cite, that if a novel does not "catch" one in the first paragraph (sometimes the first few pages), then it is not worth continuing. This one may be more annoying than engaging in the first few chapters, but persevere. It's not a long novel, and the rewards kick in soon enough to carry you breathlessly to the end.
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