Atmospheric Disturbances by Rivka Galchen

Atmostpheric Disturbances seems like the kind of book I would like. I avoided reading any reviews until I had a chance to read it, even the long piece by James Wood in the New Yorker a few weeks ago. I found the plot about doppelgangers interesting initially. Who doesn’t wonder who would notice if you were replaced by someone else? Ultimately though I didn’t enjoy the book as much as I hoped. I think the fault lies with me. Critically I can see how clever Galchen’s writing is. She creates some great sentences, but I just felt cold the whole time I was reading the book. I’ve just read Wood’s article and I agree with most of what he says, such as “Galchen can take the slightest observation of Leo’s and warp it, to reveal lunatic undulations.” At the end of his analysis, Wood calls the novel “sometimes affecting”, but that wasn’t my experience. It’s not that I don’t like or can’t get into novels of ideas. I just have to accept that I might not click with every novel. Has anyone else read this book?

8 thoughts on “Atmospheric Disturbances by Rivka Galchen

  1. Kyle Hague

    I read it and was not impressed. Some parts were fun but by the time I got close to the end– I was totally over it.

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  2. Anonymous Guy

    Same. I loved the idea of the book, and some of the sentences were worth reading a few times. But too often I *had* to read the sentences over and over again because my mind would just drift. I couldn’t get interested in the story as anything beyond an intellectual exercise. I gave up altogether around page 80. Not for me.

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  3. Inkslinger

    Hi. Even though I’m a new visitor, I had to leave a brief comment on this post because I completely agree with you about this novel. I wanted to like it, I tried to like it, I even found myself almost liking it from time to time, but full-on like never occurred.

    I don’t think the fault lies with you. I think this was a narrow narrative. The mental illness angle overtook the possible creativity. Because, really, what couldn’t one do with that doppelganger idea?

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  4. Emily

    You know, I did like the first half of this book, but the second half lost me. I think she could have gone several different directions with the novel, and I wish she had gone somewhere else. That said, I did think the writing was impressive and the detached tone worked well in the first half. But it lost momentum and kind of whirled out of control…

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  5. Carolyn

    I haven’t read the book yet but I did read the Wood review in the New Yorker. Curious to hear what you think of today’s NYT review, which got me a bit apoplectic.

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  6. Pingback: Bookdwarf » Tuesday Links

  7. Martin Gale

    Sorry to break up the love-in, but I thought it was a great book. Not just a great idea, but well developed, and a good read. For me, it helped to read it like I was analyst listening to a creative person’s therapy session(s); the “characters” are thinly drawn as people, but well set up as personality traits (defects?). Nothing wrong with that, but it does depend on what you want out of a book.

    Anyway, I wrote a quick review of it here (http://martingale-lit-crit.blogspot.com/2008/07/atmospheric-disturbances-by-rivka.html). Let me know what you think!

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