Atmospheric Disturbances (Magill's Literary Annual 2009)
Rivka Galchen’s Atmospheric Disturbances concerns Dr. Leo Liebenstein and his quest to find his wife, Rema, who, he believes, has been replaced by a double. There is no particular reason for the reader to accept that Rema has been substituted by what he calls a “simulacrum,” and once the reader learns to doubt Leo’s perspective, much of the novel’s tension comes from trying to tease out what is real and what is delusion. Written in the unreliable first-person narrative tradition of Fyodor Dostoevski’s Zapiski iz podpolya (1864; Letters from the Underworld, 1913; better known as Notes from the Underground), Atmospheric Disturbances alerts the reader to Leo’s bizarre theory in the novel’s first sentence: “Last December a woman entered my apartment who looked exactly like my wife.” As a “fifty-one-year-old male psychiatrist” with no previous history of mental illness, Leo is used to analyzing his patients’ crazy behavior, but he has a humorously hard time distinguishing his own. In an interview, Galchen has admitted, “I’m not that interested in the medical side of the narrator’s conditiondid he get hit on the head with a board? Is it dementia? I’m more concerned with the emotions behind it.” Through the lens of Leo’s highly intellectual but distorted point of view, Galchen creates a novel of the mind enlivened by the scientific and psychological mysteries as well as anything happening...
(The entire section is 1888 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 2009)
Booklist 105, no. 6 (November 15, 2008): 65.
The Economist 387 (June 28, 2008): 92-93.
Kirkus Reviews 76, no. 8 (April 15, 2008): 383.
Library Journal 133, no. 8 (May 1, 2008): 55.
The New York Times Book Review, July 13, 2008, p. 4.
The New Yorker 84, no. 18 (June 23, 2008): 79-80.
Publishers Weekly 255, no. 6 (February 11, 2008): 47.
Time 171, no. 22 (June 2, 2008): 62.
The Village Voice 53, no. 24 (June 11, 2008): 47.
The Wall Street Journal 251, no. 122 (May 24, 2008): W1-W6.
(The entire section is 49 words.)