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Bending the Spine

Friday, May 13, 2011

Review: The Mayor’s Tongue by Nathaniel Rich

The Mayor's Tongue


One of the most original, dazzling, and critically acclaimed debut novels this year.

In this debut novel, hailed by Stephen King as “terrifying, touching, and wildly funny,” the stories of two strangers, Eugene Brentani and Mr. Schmitz, interweave. What unfolds is a bold reinvention of storytelling in which Eugene, a devotee of the reclusive and monstrous author, Constance Eakins, and Mr. Schmitz, who has been receiving ominous letters from an old friend, embark from New York for Italy, where the line between imagination and reality begins to blur and stories take on a life of their own.

  • Hardcover, 304 pages
  • Published April 17th 2008 by Riverhead Hardcover
  • ISBN 1594489904 (ISBN13: 9781594489907)


I like a good off-the-wall story, and the summary of this book, as well as the cover caught my attention.  Rich has written a tale that borders on fantasy, but has it’s feet firmly planted in reality.

Eugene’s story seems to conflict with the story of Schmitz—one being very fanciful, while the later is heartfelt and real.  I found myself more caught up in the friendship of Schmitz and Rutherford.  Watching Schmitz grow and develop throughout the story, while still being true to himself, made him feel very real.  Rich did an amazing job with the Schmitz/Rutherford plot.

However, in contrast the beautiful tale of the friendship of Schmitz/Rutherford, we have the disjointed, mostly hard to follow story of Eugene and his search for the possible-love-of-his-life Alison/Sonia/Alice/Agata (yeah, try to keep her numerous names straight).  It was just too far left field for me.

Each story on it’s own could be quite good.  But together, they left me a little dumbfounded and confused.

Maybe I just didn’t get it…

2 Stars: Probably wouldn’t take a detour with another book by the author.

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