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Man Walks Into a Room

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August 02, 2002 at 04:00 AM EDT

With a brisk empathy, Man Walks Into a Room author Nicole Krauss tells the story of Samson Greene, a Columbia University professor with a cherry-size brain tumor, the removal of which erases 24 years of memory: Samson wakes as a strikingly intelligent man with all the experience of a preteen. He must now deal with a wife he doesn’t know and friends he can’t recall (”Everyone seemed to hope to be the one he remembered, as if winning his recognition were a million-dollar sweepstakes”).

Krauss’ prose is casually dazzling, as are the ideas she explores through Samson. Robbed (or freed) of identity, he’s a man bereft of preferences and pet peeves, stripped of gestures and habits. Who, then, does that make him? For starters, a thoroughly riveting character.

Man Walks Into a Room

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Man Walks Into a Room

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