Andrew’s Brain

E.L. Doctorow
Little Brown, £12.99
ebook, £4.35

E.L. Doctorow is an acknowledged master of American fiction, the celebrated author of Ragtime, Billy Bathgate and The Book of Daniel. His latest fictional offering, Andrew’s Brain, is a slim oddity — an entertaining and instructive blend of thought experiment, therapy session, 9/11 thriller, and political farce.

Andrew is a cognitive scientist, a brain expert who believes he has no heart and that none of us has a soul. The novel takes the form of a dialogue between Andrew and “Doc”, an unnamed shrink who seeks to defend the notion of an improvable human nature against the pitiless scientist who believes our behaviour is entirely determined by biochemistry.

In the exchange we see the key events of Andrew’s life unfold. It’s a series of tragic accidents and hapless misadventures. But the gloom is constantly undercut by Andrew’s whimsical ruminations on what it means to think, to have a personality.

Suddenly the chapters get shorter and shorter, and the meditations increasingly give way to the twists and turn of a thriller plot.

Doctorow is an effortless storyteller, and it’s all very readable and enjoyably idiosyncratic.


Lifestyle

FOR many of us, health insurance is high on the list of financial products which that we tend to avoid changing out of fear and confusion.Money and Cents: cover all the bases for best health insurance

Anya Taylor-Joy plays the titular Emma in the latest adaptation of Jane Austen’s romantic comedy about the spoilt, meddling matchmaker who means well, says Laura HardingAnya Taylor-Joy: ‘Emma is my little monster’

Setting sail to travel the world as part of your job has a romance all of its own but for marketing manager Máire Cronin and engineer Mark Crowe it led to love.Wedding of the Week: Cruise ship co-workers Máire and Mark sail off into sunset

One of the genres that has seen exponential growth in the podcast world is the sleepcast. Open Spotify on your phone in the evening and a number of offerings are available, writes Eoghan O'SullivanThe Podcast Corner: podcasts that will put you to sleep

More From The Irish Examiner