E.L. Doctorow’s latest book, Andrew’s Brain, which I won in a Goodreads First Reads giveaway, is a triumph. I cannot say much about the story because to tell more than a sentence or two is impossible without running the risk of spoilers. The book appears to be a conversation or conversations between a man who calls himself Andrew and a psychiatrist. Andrew wants us to believe he is a well-educated cognitive scientist who is cursed with the fate of having terrible things happen to him, without any direct action on his part. As the book goes on, his stories become more and more astonishing. Andrew says he is interested in the brain of not just a single person, but the collective brain of the whole of humanity and that he has devoted his life to understanding and pursuing this. I looked at my notes, many of which started with “I know…” and I wasn’t sure if any of these statements were accurate. The totality of the stories adds up to a lot more than meets the eye.
Andrew's Brain is among the most remarkable books I have ever read. It left me with far more questions than it answered, and it made me think about how we describe ourselves to ourselves and others, the nature of human consciousness and conscience, and, most of all, how the stories we tell ourselves or think we remember shape who we are, but who we THINK we are. Read it for the amazing language, the imagery. Read it for the mystery. Read it to change your perception of consciousness, conscience, and consensual vs. non-consensual reality and for the peculiarity of circumstance and fate.
This is a small book, 200 pages of relatively large type, 5x8 inch paperback, that contains more stories upon stories and makes one ask so many questions about the nature of human cognition and consciousness that it is hard to believe it is such a slim volume. There is not a wasted word.