Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Andrew's Brain

Hi all!

Hope everyone has had a great... month? Good grief, I've let so much time pass. I'm so sorry I've been gone, but I'm back with good news! I spent the month packing up my little cottage and my dog in Oregon and making the trek back to the Napa Valley. That's right, I'm back in California. Not too pleased about that (I miss Oregon), but I have my own little family in Calistoga, and my dear older brother decided to join me in this new adventure.

Which means I have someone to eat all the leftover goodies I'm making for this blog!
Once again, I get to figure out where ALL of my books are going to go... I don't have too many books, just not enough space...
I have a strawberry shortcake recipe coming soon, but this post is dedicated to one of my favorite American authors, the late E.L. Doctorow, and his final piece, Andrew's Brain.

Photo Credit WashingtonPost.com
I bought this book on a whim. Okay, so I bought this book during a book-buying binge. I've always had a fondness for Doctorow's work, my first being Ragtime (sparking a young interest in Harry Houdini) and later in high school I read Homer and Langley, which subsequently led to a fascination with the men upon which the book was based, and their female hoarding counterparts, the Bouvier Beales of Grey Gardens. Not having read anything of Doctorow's since Homer and Langley, seeing his name on a new book prompted me to pick it up without really knowing what it was about.

I opened it up a month later one rainy morning in Jacksonville and was not disappointed. 

Andrew's Brain is about a man named (surprise, surprise) Andrew. Andrew is a man. He is a father, a lover, a teacher, and a friend. Andrew is also a cognitive scientist, but he seems to have gotten himself into a bit of trouble. We actually don't know for sure. Throughout the novel, he talks to someone he refers to as "Doc". As the book unfolds, the story is brought to life through Andrew's broken narratives, and we discover just how he ended up talking.

In my head, this book is incredible. As a librarian and bookseller, I would say it's decidedly not for everyone. Though not as groundbreaking as Doctorow's previous works, Andrew's Brain hits home on a few levels. Andrew is someone, we learn, to often be in the wrong place at the wrong time, in the worst possible ways. Even with the best intentions at heart, something small always seems to go awry and everything sort of blows up in his face. Familiar, right? (No? Just me?) He eventually gets to a point at which he figures everything is going to go wrong anyway, so he has a little bit of fun with it.

A literary note I wanted to point out is that Andrew often tells his stories from the third person. This is even addressed by "Doc", but Andrew's vague answers don't really satisfy. He tells certain stories from third person in order to separate himself from the parts of his past that are more difficult to  bear, something I find most of us strive to do. Doctorow continues to reach his audience in this way by making his character relatable to the things we try to hide about ourselves. 

The novel is littered with breaks in Andrew's stories when he decides to give brief, epiphanic lines about freedom, human consciousness, the characteristics of one's soul, and the illusion of society. These ultimately lack relevance, but we get a little more insight into the man telling the stories, his stalling methods, and his genuine moments of realization.

I'm not going to say that this is a "tale of tragedy and hope regained and tragedy again" (even though it basically is). There's a lot more to this novel than the plot. Andrew's stories are compelling, but there is quite a bit of piecing together to do on the part of the reader.

Andrew is a character with sarcastic, jaded views, brimming with ambiguous philosophy and visions of his own facade of brilliance. The point is, he recognizes this. I believe Andrew is written to give the reader a shadow of insight into the differences between who we are and who we present ourselves to be. Doctorow was an expert storyteller, and that is evident in this book.

Delving into one's brain to determine who they are and how they think is quite a lengthy and complex process. Luckily, Andrew's Brain is a short read, so if you're looking for something curious that will make you think beyond the printed page and Andrew's occasional prattle, pick up this novel. 

Have you read Andrew's Brain? What did you think? Let me know what you all are reading and baking in the comments below!

It's almost officially summer! Which means strawberries. Which means strawberry shortcakes. Excited? I AM! I'm super pumped! So next time, I'll give you my strawberry shortcake recipe.

Thanks for reading!
Happy reading and baking,

1 comment:

  1. Hello Darling, maybe I can borrow this when I am down?? Can't wait!! xo Sim