Caris's Reviews > Man Walks Into a Room

Man Walks Into a Room by Nicole Krauss
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Sep 20, 11

bookshelves: 2011
Read from September 16 to 19, 2011

One day, I am going to purchase the rights to all of this woman’s work. I am going to compile them all in one large volume. It is going to be called How to Write.

I cannot properly articulate the feeling I get from picking up a Nicole Krauss book. There’s this anticipation and excitement that only comes with something you know is going to be good. But there is something more to it. There’s also that promise of feeling something profound without effort. It isn’t hard to read her work. She is so good at what she does that these studies of lonely, lonely humanity you are about to embark upon don’t feel like work. It’s like living.

And I say all this after having just completed my least favorite of her works. Man Walks Into a Room has been on my list for a long time, but I was (rightfully) concerned about starting it. It was her first. Generally speaking, writers aren’t like underground bands. They get better as they age. Krauss’ later books blew me out of the fucking water. How well could this one fare in comparison?

The first half was phenomenal. Exactly what I had hoped for. The story follows Samson, a man who loses his entire memory (after age 12) because of a brain tumor. He doesn’t remember how to teach; his wife is a complete stranger. He is firmly entrenched in a life he doesn’t fit with any longer. Krauss approaches a idea I had never really considered: the importance of habit, of memory. What are relationships made of if not memories? Can some single feeling be so strong? Is liking someone enough? Our histories are nothing more than habits and things that happened. But without those histories, we’ve got nothing.

Which makes it very easy for Samson to walk away from it all. He leaves his wife and tries to find his way. He ends up signing on with an ethically questionable memory project, where they try to (view spoiler).

And this is the point where the book went off track a bit. After that thing that happened, Samson’s character completely 180s. One could argue that the thing that happened caused it (and I’m sure that was the intention), but it rang false. This simply was not the character I had become invested in. Samson was rational and interesting. This guy is rash and seemingly incapable of rational thought. If that thing was bad enough to warrant this sort of shift, I didn’t catch the reasons why.

It’s a small beef. A slight plot deviation that was, at worst, a minor inconvenience. Still one of the best books I’ve read this year.
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by Eh?Eh! (new)

Eh?Eh! One day I'm going to read Nicole Krauss. I'll have to remember to put her on the "the-o-malley" shelf.

Caris Do it! The Prodigal Spinster is looking lonely. She could use the company.

message 3: by Eh?Eh! (new)

Eh?Eh! Hah! The Spinster Sisters keep her company.

message 4: by Ian (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ian Paganus Great review.


My recollection of the last part was that it was sort of saying that happiness wouldn't come from dumping something like the whole of the internet into someone's mind.

What makes you happy is the personal experience which you remember, not the abstract, biological memory (i.e., the fact that you experienced it rather than the fact that you remembered it).

It's a bit like acquiring your own wisdom by experience, rather than acquiring it off someone else (which is possibly knowledge rather than wisdom anyway).

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