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The Verificationist

3.41 of 5 stars 3.41  ·  rating details  ·  552 ratings  ·  71 reviews
Twenty psychoanalysts and a narrator meet for dinner in a pancake house. The narrator, Tom, finds himself locked in a bear hug by Bernhardt, the father figure of the group. The effects are disastrous as he is forced into an out-of-body experience and watches as his friendships and marriage unravel.
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Published April 1st 2005 by Bloomsbury Publishing PLC (first published February 15th 2000)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,177)
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Krok Zero
I don't use the P-word lightly, so you can be assured of my certitude when I tell you that this book is some pretentious-ass bullshit.
Marc Kozak
This book happened to catch me at the exact point in my life where it would be the most uncomfortable.

I get pretty down on myself around my birthday, which I know is pretty ridiculous, but here we are. This most recent one was probably the toughest yet -- without wallowing too much in self-pity, I'll just say that I'm not exactly where I thought I'd be at 31 years of age in terms of my career, finances, creative goals, or most importantly, relationships. I'm acutely aware of time passing these d
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John Pappas
Regarded only through the lenses of magic realism or surrealism, this book is a hilarious (albeit in an entirely disturbing and discomfiting manner) and occasionally poignant story of an adult male trying to simultaneously avoid and claim his status as a man. But Antrim seems to not be writing a narrative only about this character's dream-like journey (or lack thereof). His deft use of these techniques to heighten the disassociative state of the narrator, to lend it greater realness and credence ...more
Sabra Embury
If the Postal Service's Such Great Heights pops into your head more than once while reading The Verificationist don't be surprised, since most of the story takes place in the cloud layer of a pancake house. The protagonist--whose lengthy astral projection is the result of a homoerotic bear hug: floats as he admires his server, thinks about his wife, picks apart his co-workers, all while provoking a few debates within his introspective search for a comfortable state of maturity.

Antrim's brand of
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Jeb
Antrim is one of my favorite writers, but he had more fun with this book than I did as a reader. George Saunders' intro nails it: the writer is like a dog rolling around in the grass without a care in the world. Which is both delightful and, ultimately, tiresome.

Still, I'm glad I read the book. Its humanity and humor are indispensable, and, like the Hundred Brothers, written amazingly in real time with only minor reflections on the past.

I don't resent being frustrated by a great writer like Ant
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Andrew
This is one of the few American novels I've read more than once, and one of even fewer published in the last 30 years that doesn't make me want to hold my head under a massive magnet until it erases all knowledge I have of the language. I first read the excerpt that was published in the new yorker in 99 or 2000 and couldn't believe that they actually published a decent piece of fiction. Astonishing. I waited for the book to come out and it far exceeded what the excerpt set up. So much humor plus ...more
Gary Barwin
Life, I think, is like eating pancakes at night: full of compulsion, sweetness, regret, heaviness, strange incongruity, and, if the ingredients are just right, a surprising grace.

In this brilliant, witty, and insightful short novel by Donald Antrim, a group of psychologists meet for a pancake supper one evening. Not much happens. They talk both shop & gossip, they flirt and argue, and the narrator, whose narration is rich with astoundingly witty, inventive, insightful, sad, and hopeful lang
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Nathanimal
Feb 29, 2008 Nathanimal rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: someone on a 2 to 3 hour flight
I recommend this to the reader with a 2 to 3 hour flight because, like the compact little snack you'll probably get on the flight, this is a compact little book that you could probably finish off before you touch down to wherever you're going. Try starting the book in line at the airline consul and continue reading as you taxi around the runway for take off, then you should leave the ground at just about the same time the narrator does. It'll be like you're living the book! As the summary on the ...more
Josh Friedlander
Antrim is the master of the casually bizarre. In crisp, fact-laden descriptions, he gives the reader a perfectly ordinary world scarred by just one or two total strokes of insanity, making his short books both archly comic and deeply unsettling. A genealogy of his influencers could include Charlie Kaufmann, Woodie Allen's neurotic monologues, and Kafka's Metamorphosis, but you don't really need to go past Donald Barthelme (Antrim discusses this in a wonderful retrospective by John Jeremiah Sulli ...more
Adam
And now, a scene from the Simpsons that encapsulates my feelings towards this book:

Moe has radically remodeled his bar, and it is now filled with assorted eurotrash, yuppies and pseudo-hipsters. Homer and friends appear at the grand re-opening and are taken aback by the crowd and environment. Looking up at a TV above the bar that is showing an image of an eyeball blinking and looking wildly around, they ask him what the hell it's for. "It's po-mo" says Moe. This elicits no reply from the guys. "
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Wayne
I remember the strangeness of reading Beckett's Molloy the first time. The strangeness of reading that book was like the strangeness of reading this book. At times, I found the strangeness completely absorbing and felt that it worked as a way of expressing something that a more traditional mode of writing couldn't really express -- something about, say, the "reality" of our fantasies and nightmares exceeding the "reality" of the ordinary and mundane, about the intensity of desire, about the comp ...more
Phyllis
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Benjamin
Sometimes a book makes you appreciate how hard it must be to write a really great book.
Philip
Donald is certainly a talented writer and arguably deserves to be recognized by the NYT as a Notable Book, if for no other reason than he is one to watch. I enjoyed the book, just fine, found the convention he used in which to tell his story comfortable enough for me to fall in line with. However, my problem with the book seems to be my problem with a lot of "post-modern", "contemporary", "literary fiction" hitting the shelves these days: Clever premise, but perhaps not dimensional enough to ser ...more
April
time has come to a chokehold halt.
"We respect one another's shame. Let me say in this light that I take no special pleasure in reporting on my bowel movements, and would not do so for one minute were it not for the fact that Jane was showing no sign of leaving the bathroom. In the meantime I was chattering and pontificating, loudly, to cover the unromantic, humbling sound of shit hitting the water. 'It is not unusual,' I announced from the toilet, 'to invest other people with precisely those qu
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Sps
Imagine The Homecoming mixed with A Confederacy of Dunces. Somehow, despite the book being mostly internal emotions, reflections, thought processes, memories, and tangents, I think it would work well as an absurdist play.

The book takes place almost entirely at a pancake restaurant where our hero, Tom, has invited his psychotherapist colleagues to dinner. It also almost entirely takes place while Tom is being held tightly in the arms of his corpulent coworker, Richard, ostensibly to prevent Tom
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Karl
i didn't like this as much as elect mr robinson for a better world, or one hundred brothers. the verifcationist had far less of the vitality and rocket fuel. the mania of the protagonist was deeply reflective, perhaps whereas the other characters in EMRFABW and 100 Bros, were nearly oblivious about their psychological unmoorings. those protagonists also were essentially extremists in a extreme world, that was only slightly distorted from our own, and thus served as a fascinating commentary on mo ...more
Wyatt
One review drew a strong parrallel between The Verificationist and the recent book, Atmospheric Disturbances. Of the two, I prefer the Verificationist because although it supposedly all takes place within a pancake house, things ACTUALLY HAPPEN in this book. The pilgrim's self-aware, pursues fantasies, and changes, whereas in Atmospheric Disturbances, as clever as it was, the book itself was one big disturbance. The protagonist moves around the planet but stays locked within his delusions.

To be
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Robert Wechsler
This is one of the most successful novels in terms of employing surreal approaches. One reason seems to be that the novel̕s surreality is introduced gradually, and the author manages to make it seem both real and the protagonist̕s fantasy in the midst of what appears to be a nervous breakdown. It is both funny and sad, and yet not too funny nor too sad. What is also wonderful about the novel̕s surreality is that it is very limited -- e.g., the protagonist floating up toward the ceiling of a panc ...more
Enrica Enrica
Pensavo che fosse un libriccino carino che avrei letto nell'arco di un pomeriggio o due. Invece, in modo inaspettato e senza dubbio originale, mi sono trovata tra le mani un libro complesso, intenso e decisamente indimenticabile. Ben fatta anche l'introduzione di Saunders, che non rovina affatto il gusto della lettura.
ben
The author delves considerably far inside the book's own butthole to conclude that, while this book may have been about something at some point, in the end it's really about how strange it is to look inside the butthole of a book.
Julien
I have a feeling this is the sort of book you'll either like or detest. Antrim has a peculiar tone. In all of his books, the humor/interest stems from a deadpan, pedantic, seemingly logical narrator being placed in a surreal, nonsensical environment. In this book, the narrator spends most of his time hallucinating that he is floating and flying around a pancake restaurant while his colleagues (college psychology professors) eat and chat below him. There are also flashbacks about awkward sex with ...more
Tyler Doyle
Stellar. Antrim's antihero shows us a thought life that disturbs as much as it enlightens. He expresses negativity so beautifully--and precisely--that his private judgments become echoes of our own darkest thoughts.
Sean Masterson
If you are in love with the written word, someone who cherishes sentences and the nerve endings they can expose, than look no further.

Donald Antrim's The Verificationist is a funhouse mirror of a novel to be sure. What it lacks in traditional plotting (something whose absence I'm always surprised to see denigrated 259 years after the publication of Tristram Shandy) it makes up for in an elaborate new twist on the dream sequence: the fugue state. Literary stuff aside, if you're tuned in correctl
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Chris
At times I felt held hostage by Antrim in this surreal small-town pancake house, but it was worth the claustrophobia for his frequent flights of fancy.
Pat
Insomma, paragonarlo a Calvino...
Tara
I wanted to love this book. Wish I could give it two and a *half* stars. I think it's a great idea, the whole guy floating in the pancake house thing. The scenes with the wife are pretty awesome, I found them emotionally resonant and some passages I read twice, but overall this book made me sigh a little. I threw it a couple times because I just couldn't keep reading. The man holding the narrator for so long exhausted me :P I'd try once more to read another book by this author, though, he's obvi ...more
Seán
Like every other Joe Everyman, post-modern fiction tends to be too self-aware and parenthetical-happy for my ass. Somehow, though, exceptions abound! This is a case in point.

The novella transpires over the course of a single fantastic scene in a pancake house and, despite metaphors running a bit thin at times (seriously, put him down, man), it works. It's sort of like a contemporary parlor read perfect for a Sunday afternoon. And although I can anticipate/sympathize with any number of criticisms
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Christian
I heard about this book in an interview with Rivka Galchen (author of Atmospheric Disturbances. She said it was her favorite book, if I remember correctly, and boy does it show. If you like one book, you'll probably like the other. The writing styles, themes, and even the plots are incredibly similar. As everyone notes, this book is full of absurdity, and so how you relate to that will probably determine how you relate to this book. For what it's worth, I preferred Atmospheric Disturbances to th ...more
Tyler
At first, the humor in this veered a little too close to the academically witty but not terribly funny style of Pynchon's The Crying Of Lot 49, but it eventually develops an absurd rhythm of its own. The book actually ends up being more distressing and harrowing than it initially promises, as the reader slowly realizes that the narrator is in the midst of a horredous nervous breakdown and is using a goofy hallucination to cope with his cripplng neuroses. Again, a quick read.
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Donald Antrim is an American novelist. His first novel, Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World, was published in 1993. In 1999 The New Yorker named him as among the twenty best writers under the age of forty.

Antrim is a frequent contributor of fiction to The New Yorker and has written a number of critically acclaimed novels, including The Verificationist and The Hundred Brothers, which was a finali
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More about Donald Antrim...
The Hundred Brothers Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World The Afterlife The Emerald Light in the Air: Stories Doug DuBois: All the Days and Nights

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“We eat pancakes to escape loneliness, yet within moments we want nothing more than our freedom from ever having so much as thought about pancakes.” 7 likes
“Have you ever noticed?--people, no matter how beautiful or desirable, invariably will, if observed closely while going about their daily business of keeping alive, begin to seem like monsters.” 2 likes
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