Insect Dreams: The Half Life of Gregor Samsa Paperback – Feb 4 2003
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From Publishers Weekly
The hapless antihero who morphed into a cockroach in Kafka's Metamorphosis is resurrected and given a rather busy second life in Estrin's brilliantly conceived but erratic debut novel. In Estrin's version, Gregor Samsa is sold to a Viennese sideshow rather than being swept into the trash, and he quickly becomes the major attraction in entrepreneur Amadeus Hoffnung's bizarre little circus. The author keeps his early incarnation of Samsa reasonably close to Kafka's character, and he even adds a cheeky chapter in which Samsa meets Ludwig Wittgenstein. But when the circus subplot runs its course and Samsa goes off to New York, he undergoes a radical transformation into a half-man, half-insect superhero whom the author uses to reexamine the first half of the 20th century, with Samsa working behind the scenes as a liaison in the worlds of science, music, business and politics to push pivotal historical events in the right direction. His encounters with Charles Ives, FDR, Einstein and Oppenheimer, among others, are rendered with a combination of humor, chutzpah and intelligence. Even though Estrin has a tendency to go over the top, he succeeds at many levels in his recreation of one of Kafka's most memorable characters, redrawing Samsa as a compassionate, brilliant bug. The book's many excesses don't detract from the scope of its premise and the kaleidoscopic dazzle of its most successful episodes. Agent, Dorian Karchmar. (Jan.)Forecast: The whimsical jacket art and the tie to Kafka should catch the eye of a brainy subgroup of readers; the lively prose will keep them hooked.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Library Journal
Get ready for a highly imaginative ride through the cultural frontier of the early 20th century from the perspective of a character-turned-cockroach named Gregor Samsa from Kafka's The Metamorphosis. In a fantastic mixture of fact and fiction, this witty debut novel follows the adventures of Gregor from post-World War I Vienna through the Manhattan Project in Los Alamos, NM. In numerous behind-the-scenes actions, Gregor befriends historical figures like Charles Ives, President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Robert Oppenheimer, as well as numerous other highly fascinating fictional characters. Gregor has an impact on the unfolding of world events as we remember them and others that never got recorded in history books, such as Roosevelt's refusal to interfere with the genocide of the Jews. Gregor understands more than his human counterparts the essential qualities it takes to be human because he "asks too many questions, dreams too many dreams, and embarks on too many quests." A helpful bibliography is provided at the end. A colossal book of characters and events that inspires tears of laughter and sadness in its rich blend of clever metaphor and unsettling facts, this promises to become a pivotal literary landmark. Highly recommended. David A. Beron , Univ. of New Hampshire, Durham
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Inside This Book(Learn More)
Wunderkammer Hoffnung-Amadeus Hoffnung's Cabinet of Wonders-had begun as the hobby of a diminutive, shy adolescent: his childhood rock and insect collections, his autographs of singers from the Vienna State Opera, the paintings made by his oddly talented cat, and what was clearly the largest ball of string ever imagined by his otherwise mocking cohorts. Read the first page
Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
Top Customer Reviews
There are also some pretty mighty flights of fancy...ones that go beyond the very premise of the book...and leaps of plausibility that surely must have utilized ropes. But his mastery of the tale being told was solid enough to overcome just about all of the indulgences.
The best portions were those where interaction took place. Good old human-to-cockroach engagement. The less-best portions? Mostly towards the conclusion of the book, where the philosophical may have been well represented, but the contrast between say, the FDR White House material and Estrin's big-brained noodling grated. Just a little. But enough for me to feel the need to mention.
Oh, but the ending? Meh. It dropped off quite precipitously...only to fall flat. Like he ran out of steam.
Still, this is a wondrous novel. So much to dig into, that all throughout, I was feeling very thankful that it had been written. Were my brain just a little bigger, even its perceived shortcomings might also have pleased.
Well worth the read.
(My personal rating is 9/10)
I wanted to give Insect Dreams 5-stars but I did find the book to be a little uneven in flow. Certain parts were drawn out to the point where the book lost momentum that had to be recaptured in later sections. Still, Insect Dreams is an imaginative endeavor that is well worth reading.
Gregor suffers from an unhealing wound in his back, inflicted when his father, frightened by his new form, threw an apple at him, a metaphor that is implicitly explored throughout the novel. Gregor stumbles upon so many pivitol figures throughout the book, that in that respect, Insect Dreams is reminiscent of Forest Gump, yet that allusion is delightful. Estrin is erudite, so at times one might need to look up a fact or a figure, but the entire experience is worth it.
The links (such as they are) to "the original" Kafka creation are tenuous at best. Perhaps they needn't be there at all, but an author appropriating another author's character has a duty, however small, to the original's memory. Kafka's creations are non-linear, mercurial, at times just plain unfathomable.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
This book is a fascinating, entertaining look at world history in the first half of the 20th century. Read morePublished on March 25 2003 by Kindle Customer
Insect Dreams is a great achievement. The language is precise, rich and resonant, the range of characters vast, the intellectual and emotional content constantly challenging, the... Read morePublished on Aug. 10 2002 by R. Linder
Insect Dreams is the UUbooks.org book-of-the-month selection for October 2002. UUbooks is the online reading group for Unitarian Universalists and friends. Read morePublished on July 22 2002 by Matthew Gatheringwater
"Insect Dreams" begins with the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand and ends three decades later with the explosion at Los Alamos of the world's first atomic bomb; its 450 pages... Read morePublished on June 23 2002 by D. Cloyce Smith
INSECT DREAMS is an allegory following in the footsteps of THE PILGRIM'S PROGRESS, GULLIVER'S TRAVELS and CANDIDE. Read morePublished on April 1 2002 by James H. Schwartz
When an imaginative and gifted author can use a giant roach as his main character, include a romance between the roach and a human, and still make you love him, he's accomplished a... Read morePublished on March 1 2002 by Mary Whipple