Tuesday, December 2, 2008

The Verificationist by Donald Antrim

I couldn't help thinking, as I struggled through the second half of Donald Antrim's novel, that it would have made an excellent short story. All of the elements of a prize-winning, lit-magazine story were there: the witty, almost ridiculing tone of psychobabble; the extremely self-conscious professional protagonist and his cohorts; the fantastical element of an otherwise realistic setting; the satiric nature of the protagonist's sexual and homoerotic concerns. But even at less than 180 pages, the tale seemed to go on for far too long.

Had Antrim been able to inject more humor into the story, it would have held me, but I kept thinking as I waded through pages of Tom, the narrator's, pseudo-sexual flight around the upper reaches of a pancake house during a departmental outing he has organized, that much of his meanderings are almost funny. That almost, and Antrim's skillful wordplay, would have been enough to carry twenty-five or thirty pages. As a novel, it's landing was long overdue.

No comments: