John Pappas's Reviews > The Verificationist

The Verificationist by Donald Antrim
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Jun 15, 12

Read from June 11 to 15, 2012

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, creates a much more interesting character, yes, but also a character with much greater satirical power and function. As such, Antrim's book becomes a metafictional comment on the growing body of literature (I'm looking at you Russo, Walter, Delillo, et al.) featuring educated bumblers -- self-absorbed, self-sabotaging manchildren who use scholarship, not as a way to embrace the world, but as a means of avoidance. By poking fun at the tropes of these novels through the protagonist's sometimes prescient and sometimes misguided self-analysis (he is a psychologist, of course), overwrought rationalizations and compensation mechanisms, Antrim critiques the societal expectations of middle-aged men and the popular literature written about their struggles. Hysterical, in all senses of the word.
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06/11/2012 page 30
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