A Gambler's Anatomy: A Novel by Jonathan Lethem
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Alexander Bruno is a professional backgammon player. After a run of bad luck and a chance encounter with a classmate from high school, Alexander leaves Singapore for Berlin, where he winds up in the hospital after suffering from a seizure of some kind during a game. It seems Bruno has a nearly inoperable tumor and only a doctor in the US can do the operation, a doctor that lives near Bruno's former classmate.
I got this from Netgalley.
My only other exposure to Jonathan Lethem was Gun, With Occasional Music. When I saw this up on Netgalley, I decided to give it a shot.
A Gambler's Anatomy is a delightfully odd and wonderfully written book. Bruno's voyage into self-discovery is painful, grotesque, and somewhat sweet at times. Jonathan Lethem is very talented, phenomenally so, in some instances. I caught my mouth watering a few times at his descriptions of food and Bruno's surgery made my face hurt. His word play, use of allusions, and descriptive skills were dead on in this one. I have no complaints of any sort about the writing.
The characters were quirky but not unrealistically so. Stolarsky referring to Bruno as Flashman was pretty accurate since Bruno does a few Flashman style things in this one, including not really improving much despite everything he experienced.
The plot was secondary to everything else, which is the one ding I'll lay upon the book. Bruno was a passive lead, for the most part. There really wasn't much of a build toward a decisive ending. The antagonist just gave up and Bruno wound up back where he started. I know the journey is supposed to be more important than the destination in most books of this type but it would be nice if the journey wasn't a huge circle. Four out of 5 stars.
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