- Paperback: 272 pages
- Publisher: Harper Perennial - GB (1 May 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0007276850
- ISBN-13: 978-0007276851
- Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 1.8 x 19.8 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 181 g
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
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Atmospheric Disturbances Paperback – 13 May 2009
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'An original and affecting novel, one that knows how to move from the comic to the painful.’ New Yorker
'Genuinely suspenseful, fresh and wry…Galchen is a writer to be watched.’ The Economist
‘A playful and moving novel.’ Daily Telegraph
‘Rivka Galchen’s “Atmospheric Disturbances” is playful yet profound, Murakami-esque yet original, analytical yet heartbreaking. It’s an absolutely stunning and unforgettable debut.’ Vendela Vida, author of ‘Let the Northern Lights Erase Your Name’
'Rivka Galchen has written a powerful novel about love, longing, Doppler radar, and the true appreciation of a nice cookie with your tea. “Atmospheric Disturbances” is fantastic.' Nathan Englander, author of 'The Ministry of Special Cases'
‘Reader, you are holding in your hand one of my favorite novels ever: Rivka Galchen's divinely hilarious, heartbreaking tale of Leo's search for his ‘lost’ wife Rema. This is a novel of Borgesian erudition, wit, and playfulness, though its obsessively pursued subject – as it rarely was in the Argentine's fiction – is love, the enraptured lover, and the mystery of the beloved, the intersection of love's fictions, realities, and pathologies. It is also as funny as any episode of the Simpsons (imagine Homer as a besotted and brilliant New York psychiatrist). The prose jumps with one astonishing observation, insight, and description after another. “Atmospheric Disturbances” delivers unforgettable joy.' Francisco Goldman, author of 'The Divine Husband'
About the Author
Rivka Galchen received her MD from Mount Sinai School of Medicine, having spent a year in South America working on public health issues. Her fiction and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in The Believer, Harper's, The New Yorker, Scientific American and The New York Times. This is her first novel.
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As he proceeds on his quest, which takes him to Argentina, Leo consistently psychoanalyzes himself and others in an effort to remain convinced of his own sanity, and Galchen seems to have a firm grasp of the shop talk. But is he really mad, or are all the strange happenings not just in his mind? For much of the novel we tend to opt for the former explanation, but then things start to confirm his "delusions."
Of course I won't reveal the ending, but I will offer a reservation. The reader has some work to do to gain a clear picture of how this narrator's mind works and/or how his world turns. At times we wade so far into his brooding that we need hip boots, and we might wonder if it will be worth the effort. And yet, in its best moments, the novel insinuates itself into the tradition of the great writers of distorted realities such Franz Kafak and Thomas Pynchon, and in fact Galchen's 49 is probably an homage to Pynchon's The Crying of Lot 49.
If Atmospheric Disturbances sounds like your thing, you might also try The Testing of Luther Albright by MacKensie Bezos. Her protagonist is not as odd as Galchen's, but Luther also has a few screws that need tightening. This is a beautifully crafted psychological study in which everything in the external world correlates with cracks and stresses in Luther's mind. Is the dam he designed defective? Did he err when installing the plumbing in his house? For a controlling person like Luther Albright, these issues are symbolic of flaws in his relationships, or in his perceptions of them. Tension builds slowly, and the inner demons begin to emerge like cracks in a damn, or in the living room plaster.
Both of these are fine first novels.
Galchen is a fearless, inventive trickster who plays with time, identities, relationships, and gender-bending. Her writing appears effortless, but this cannot be so. She is very young, and very ambitious. "The Lost Order," my moment of first contact with Galchen, staggered me more in its nervy hilarity than "Atmospheric Disturbances," but she is a writer I am going to follow closely.
This book is narrated by Leo Liebenstein, a psychiatrist in his early 50s. Leo is married to a much younger woman, a beautiful Argentinean named Rema. At least I'm pretty sure of these facts.
You see, fairly early on, we realize that Leo is one heck of an unreliable narrator. And that's apparently because he has suffered some sort of psychotic break.
At the very start of the book, Rema walks in the house, and he believes that it really isn't her, but merely her doppelganger. And that's when things get really confusing. Leo attempts to find the "real" Rema, and in the course of this he teams up with one of his patients to join some nefarious meteorological organization that he imagines may have something do do with this.
Throw in conspiracies with dogs, coworkers, (possible) trips to Argentina and family confrontations, and you have just a taste of what this book is about. Oh, and add in some charts.
In short, it's difficult to make sense of because of course, we are unsure of what's real, and what's in Leo's mind. But Galchen manages to pull of what Haven Kimmel did so well in her book, Iodine - the reader enters the mind of the psychotic and it's very disconcerting.
This would make a very good book for book club, because there are lots of things to discuss. Of course, you could try to figure out what's real and what wasn't. But more than that, there the very real concept of how humans can fail to really see the people they love. Also at play is the concept that sometimes, if you are really afraid to lose someone (or something), you will do something that will saboteage that relationship and thus make it fail, as you feared (and expected.)
Lots to thing about with this book, and perhaps not for those who like straightforward stories with clear resolutions. This is anything but that.