The Verificationist A Novel

Donald Antrim




Trade Paperback

192 Pages



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A New York Times Book Review Notable Book of the Year

It is early spring, and Tom has called together his fellow psychologists at the Krakower Institute for their biannual pancake supper—a chance for likeminded analysts to talk shop and casually unburden themselves over flapjacks. But, as Tom knows (at least subconsciously), his brainy colleagues are a little on edge—simmering with romantic tension and professional grievance, their stew of conflicting ego and id just might boil to the surface before the pretty waitress brings their next coffee refill. When Tom tries to provoke a food fight, a rival colleague locks him in a therapeutic hold, triggering a transcendent if totally bizarre transformation that will free Tom to confront his greatest pleasures and fears.


Praise for The Verificationist

"Antrim does a beautiful job . . . [Full] of intellection, rude humor, grief, and longing."The New York Times Book Review

"Antrim is the Buster Keaton of current American literature."The Wall Street Journal

"Edgy, fantastical, absurdist, Dionysian, visionary."Newsday

"A superb literary achievement."—Entertainment Weekly

"Donald Antrim is in top form with this high-spirited hallucination, whose characters, undeniably ourselves, carry on engagingly and shamelessly in an off-the-wall, not to mention off-the ceiling, environment that is also the world we know, and sometimes wish we didn't."—Thomas Pynchon

"Not since the late Donald Barthelme have we had such a pitch-perfect surrealizing of domestic American life."Esquire

"Antrim's extraordinary imagination has invited comparison of his work with that of Italo Calvino, but Antrim has a sharper razor."Annie Proulx

"Vividly, Antrim captures the poignancy of the human enterprise . . . He goes right for the jugular in order to expose the vital essential pulse of his characters—and by proxy, our own."Elle

"Antrim challenges the very notion of the individual, in another darkly comic tour-de-farce that's at once attenuated and hyperkinetic. In a small and nameless northeastern city, a group of psychoanalysts has convened at the local Pancake House & Bar for a casual dinner and discussion of their shared specialty—significantly, "Self/Other Friction Theory." The dinner has been organized by the narrator, Tom, who seems stuck in an adolescent stage of development: he spits water at his colleagues, props trash cans against their office doors and, here at the restaurant, wants to launch a decisive food fight against the child psychologists. But before he can throw his cinnamon-raisin toast, he's confined in the monstrous embrace of Richard Bernhardt, the group's father figure. Hoisted in the air, Tom suffers a literal loss of self, as an out-of-body experience leaves him floating near the restaurant ceiling. From this vantage point, simultaneously self and other, Tom watches as the dinner evolves into a series of arguments and seductions. Tom details these scenes minutely—"It is my hope," he says, "to make a picture of things as they were . . . and, through this process . . . say something worthwhile about what I call the verifiability of emotional experience" . . . yet there are tantalizing hints throughout that everything he's witnessing is an extended fantasy, all in his disembodied head. Antrim is a manic prose stylist, capable of balancing lush pastoral descriptions with outrageous turbocharged riffs on sex and marriage and psychoanalysis, and the novel hurtles toward its resolution at such breakneck speed that it's perhaps unsurprising when it ends on an abrupt and inconclusive note. Despite this minor letdown, Antrim has provided a striking meditation on the nature of self-identity and a fierce affirmation of the power of imagination."—Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads



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THE PANCAKE SUPPERS were my idea. The plan was, as I imagined it, innocent enough: respectful, unceremonious gatherings, one in early spring a few days before Easter, another sometime after the Wicker Beaver Festival in late October, all...

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  • Donald Antrim

  • Donald Antrim is the author of Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World, The Hundred Brothers, and The Verificationist, and is a regular contributor to The New Yorker. He lives in New York City.

  • Donald Antrim Ulrike Schamoni