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The Vintage Book of Amnesia (Vintage Crime/Black Lizard) Paperback – 1 Dec 2000

4.0 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 414 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Books (1 Dec. 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375706615
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375706615
  • Product Dimensions: 13.3 x 2.5 x 20.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 670,173 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From the Inside Flap

Jonathan Lethem is perhaps our most active literary voice mining the genre margins of our culture. In this unique collection he creates an anthology that no one else could. He draws on the work of such unforgettables as Julio Cortazar, who presents a man caught between the ancient and modern worlds unable to say which is real; Philip K. Dick, who tells the story of a man trapped on a spaceship of the somnolent, unable to sleep and slowly losing his mind; Shirley Jackson, who takes us on a nightmarish trip across town with a young secretary; and Oliver Sacks, who presents us with an aging hippie who possesses no memory of anything that has taken place since the early seventies.
What Lethem has done is nothing less than define a new genre of literature-the amnesia story-and in the process he invites us to sit down, pick up the book, and begin to forget.
Also including: John Franklin Bardin, Donald Barthelme, Thomas M. Disch, Karn Joy Fowler, David Grand, Anna Kavan, Haruki Murakami, Flann O'Brien, Edmund White, and many others.

About the Author

Jonathan Lethem lives in Brooklyn, New York.Motherless Brooklyn is coming from Vintage in Fall 2000."

Customer Reviews

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Perhaps it's 'wrong' of me, but I was fascinated by the two scientific true stories in this collection, though there were a number of notable writers whose fiction was enjoyable - Christopher Priest's, mainly because I've read a number of his books, and this was an excerpt from his novel The Affirmation (S.F. Masterworks), and Steve Erikson's cinematic story about a `discovered' nephew whose condition causes a state close to Tourette's syndrome, only in French (it seems he had spent some time in France with other relations). It was the piece by Valentine Worth, together with the article by Oliver Sacks, that really interested me.

Valentine Worth's account of Geoffrey Sonabend's three-volume work: 'Obliescence: Theories of Forgetting and the Problem of Matter' departed from all previous research with the premise that memory is an illusion. He describes amnesia thus:

"We Amnesiacs all, condemned to live in an eternally fleeting present have created the most elaborate of human constructions, memory, to buffer ourselves against the intolerable knowledge of the irreversible passage of time and the irretrievability of its moments and events."

While not denying the experience of memory, Sonnabend's work was predicated on the idea that: "what we experience as memories are in fact confabulations, artificial constructions of our own design based around sterile particles of retained experience which we attempt to make live again by infusions of imagination..." Long term or distant memories, he contends, are illusions.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a very remarkable anthology, which introduces many writers(at least to me),but makes also clear the limits of the so charming to writers subject of amnesia;in fact,whereas I used to consider it a fascinating theme,after finising this book I had the feeling that it is too common a central idea for so many stories that one has to bring something really groundbreaking to make it work efficiently.So I found that Nabocov's writing stands out in its own,Dick's general tone is exceptional,some others' stories(such as Priest's) are very interesting,and Lethem's own may be the masterpiece of the anthology.Another thing ,however,that disappointed me slightly was that most of the texts are parts of novels,so you don't have a complete work of literature but just a glimpse of one,in every case,and that makes the anthology most appropriate as a lesson in writing(where you can choose the kind of style that works for you)rather than a complete satisfactory reading.Overall,however,the idea is brilliant and the texts worthwhile.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: HASH(0x916e5c60) out of 5 stars 9 reviews
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x916caf30) out of 5 stars Unforgettable 7 Dec. 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
A terrific concept brilliantly executed. The editor has gathered a superb collection of stories and essays that address, directly or otherwise, the subject of memory loss. What is memory? What does it mean to remember, and why does it matter? These are only a few of the questions that are explored from many different perspectives by Martin Amis, Oliver Sacks, Vladimir Nabokov, Philip K. Dick, and many other distinguished writers. This is one book you won't soon forget!
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x916de57c) out of 5 stars Uneven and teasing, but contains gems 9 July 2001
By Jens Alfke - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The theme is right up my alley and Lethem is one of my favorite authors. Nevertheless I found the book frustrating, because many of the pieces are excerpts from novels and show it, with abrupt endings that don't resolve anything. I'm grateful for having the chance to get tastes of these (mostly obscure) books, but it detracts from the anthology itself. Nevertheless, thanks to this I've already discovered, purchased and read two excellent novels I'd never heard of before -- Lawrence Shainberg's "Memories Of Amnesia" (first person view of eminent neurologist's mental collapse) and John Franklin Bardin's "The Deadly Percheron" (weirdo '40s noir) -- and in between enjoyed some old classics I hadn't re-read in a while, such as Philip K Dick's terrifying SF short story "I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon".
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x915d4dc8) out of 5 stars Hardly cohesive 21 Jun. 2001
By Thomas Dignazio - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
While this book contains many wonderful short stories, it fails at being a cohesive anthology. Editor Lethem has broadly defined 'amnesia' define anything related to the doubt of one's mental state or existence. That's wide net, and the resulting catch is eclectic and disjointed.
I also have a problem with the excerpts from full novels. Although many stand well on their own, I always feel as if I'm not getting the full point. Once I was halfway through I began skipping the excerpts and focused on the complete short stories.
But as I said, there are many gems here. Particulary the Borges, Lethem, and Sacks stories stand out. If you read this with the understanding that most of the stories have nothing to do with the common perception of amnesia, it may be well worth your time.
HASH(0x916c9918) out of 5 stars Fuhgeddaboutit 23 Jan. 2013
By Blusuede - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
As others have commented, this collection is uneven but Lethem has done an admirable job in assembling a diverse collection of modern authors, mainly in the realm of fiction. Unfortunately, some of the approaches and themes are repetitious, leading one to confuse many of the plots with each other (how many times must a man wake up and wonder where he is and why he has no memory of his past?). However, some stand-out pieces from JL Borges, LJ Davis, Philip K Dick, Julio Cortazar and Robert Sheckley demonstrate that a simple theme can lead to surprisingly disparate approaches. Overall a worthwhile purchase for the 400 pages of mind-bending literature it contains.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x9177b90c) out of 5 stars Mmmm... yummy. 20 Jun. 2001
By David Myers - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Are you worried that coughing up the bucks for an anthology will leave you with two or three gem stories and a pile of duds? Well don't worry this time, kids, Lethem delivers the goods. At least eight solid keepers in this one that I will certainly read again at some point. Overall, the theme works very well, and the variety of experiences (from creepy to wacky) is pretty wide. It's not all bumps on the head, waking up in white-walled rooms...
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