A Gambler's Anatomy by Jonathan Lethem
A Novel

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Stolarsky’s plan for Bruno is a Bond-villain level of absurd...The book is classic Lethem: it defies genre, a comedic, literary page-turner as capable of commenting on the excesses of American culture as it is of landing jokes at the expense of the hypocritical anarchists of Telegraph Avenue.
-National Post arts

Synopsis

The author of Motherless Brooklyn and The Fortress of Solitude returns with a devilishly entertaining novel about an international backgammon hustler who thinks he's psychic. Too bad about the tumor in his face.

Handsome, impeccably tuxedoed Bruno Alexander travels the world winning large sums of money from amateur "whales" who think they can challenge his peerless acumen at backgammon. Fronted by his pasty, vampiric manager, Edgar Falk, Bruno arrives in Berlin after a troubling run of bad luck in Singapore. Perhaps it was the chance encounter with his crass childhood acquaintance Keith Stolarsky and his smoldering girlfriend Tira Harpaz. Or perhaps it was the emergence of a blot that distorts his vision so he has to look at the board sideways.

Things don't go much better in Berlin. Bruno's flirtation with Madchen, the striking blonde he meets on the ferry, is inconclusive; the game at the unsettling Herr Kohler's mansion goes awry as his blot grows worse; he passes out and is sent to the local hospital, where he is given an extremely depressing diagnosis. Having run through Falk's money, Bruno turns to Stolarsky, who, for reasons of his own, agrees to fly Bruno to Berkeley, and to pay for the experimental surgery that might save his life.

Berkeley, where Bruno discovered his psychic abilities, and to which he vowed never to return. Amidst the patchouli flashbacks and Anarchist gambits of the local scene, between Tira's come-ons and Keith's machinations, Bruno confronts two existential questions: Is the gambler being played by life?  And what if you're telepathic but it doesn't do you any good?
 

About Jonathan Lethem

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JONATHAN LETHEM is the author of six novels, including Motherless Brooklyn,The Fortress of Solitude, and Gun, with Occasional Music. He lives in Brooklyn.
 
Published October 18, 2016 by Doubleday. 306 pages
Genres: Humor & Entertainment, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Literature & Fiction. Fiction
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Critic reviews for A Gambler's Anatomy
All: 5 | Positive: 4 | Negative: 1

NY Times

Good
Reviewed by Dwight Garner on Oct 11 2016

The prose in “A Gambler’s Anatomy” is nearly always this good, and Mr. Lethem has a touching sense of the lives of obsessive misfits. They’re his tribe.

Read Full Review of A Gambler's Anatomy: A Novel | See more reviews from NY Times

Star Tribune

Above average
Reviewed by Malcolm Forbes on Oct 28 2016

Lethem serves up a punchy, stylish, relentlessly entertaining novel which, during quieter moments, asks us to consider whether we make our own luck and how best to deal with what life throws at us.

Read Full Review of A Gambler's Anatomy: A Novel | See more reviews from Star Tribune

LA Times

Above average
Reviewed by Alexander Chee on Oct 21 2016

We travel from Berlin to Singapore to Berkeley with one Alexander Bruno, tracing an unlikely path across the world in a novel that begins first as an international high-rolling gamblers’ intrigue and then becomes a love triangle, a confrontation with his past in the form of a former high school friend...

Read Full Review of A Gambler's Anatomy: A Novel | See more reviews from LA Times

The Maine Edge

Good
Reviewed by Allen Adams on Oct 26 2016

“A Gambler’s Anatomy” is a thoughtful and wonderfully-crafted work, one built on an authorial foundation of intelligence, curiosity and immense skill. It’s the sort of reading experience that is very much worth a roll of the dice.

Read Full Review of A Gambler's Anatomy: A Novel

National Post arts

Above average
Reviewed by Michael Melgaard on Oct 26 2016

Stolarsky’s plan for Bruno is a Bond-villain level of absurd...The book is classic Lethem: it defies genre, a comedic, literary page-turner as capable of commenting on the excesses of American culture as it is of landing jokes at the expense of the hypocritical anarchists of Telegraph Avenue.

Read Full Review of A Gambler's Anatomy: A Novel | See more reviews from National Post arts

Reader Rating for A Gambler's Anatomy
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