Jonathan Lethem's "Gambler's Anatomy" is a bizarre, eclectic odyssey into a look at the human condition, or lack thereof. Lethem is known for writing very different fiction than the average novelist and this book is no exception.
Bruno Alexander makes his living from backgammon. He believes he is telepathic but, whether he is or not, he does have a tumor. It's behind his face pressing onto his brain and makes a large, dark blot appear in his vision. He tries to ignore it as he goes to play a rich man in Berlin, but his condition worsens until he is hospitalized in Germany.
Mainstream neurosurgeons all agree the growth is inoperable, but a concerned general doctor refers him to a specialist in San Francisco. Bruno is broke from poor playing in his condition, so he has to reach out to an old high school acquaintance, Keith Stolarsky, for help.
Keith is terribly rich in money but not in social graces or morals and collects people who can do favors for him. He pays for Bruno's return to the United States, the expensive operation to remove the tumor, a place to live and even a job at one point.
For a telepath, Bruno is horrible at understanding human motivations. He wanders through the novel in a naïve state as he travels with anarchists, potheads and a German prostitute, Madchen, who he has brought over to "take care" of him. Eventually, Keith has enough of Bruno and sends him back to where he started.
Fans of Lethem's latest novels will enjoy its snarky style and use of language. To others who haven't encountered this author, it will be a very weird trip reminiscent of "The Big Lebowski." Readers either will love it or hate it; there isn't much of an in-between.
The violence is light and vaguely described, but it has a lot of adult language. There are several sexual situations and frequent references to drug usage.
Jonathan Lethem is an American novelist who began by writing science fiction novels. He later wrote novels that blend realism, absurdism and modernism. His fans enjoy his command of the language and quirky descriptions of the world-at-large.