A review of

Atmospheric Disturbances

by Rivka Galchen

Central question: Is reality all it’s cracked up to be?
Format: Hardcover, 256 pp.; Size: 5 ½" x 8 ¼"; Price: $24; Publisher: Farrar, Straus & Giroux; Editor: Eric Chinski; Book designer: Jonathan Lippincott; Typeface: Garamond 3; Number of books with “confession” in the title author read during composition: seven; Estimated amount of Tetley tea author consumed during composition: 370 gallons; Representative sentence: “I wouldn’t want certain concessions I’ve made to my current reality to undermine an accurate understanding of the predicament I was in, a predicament that gave me little choice other than to retreat into the kind of inventiveness that resembles deceit and/or psychosis.”

Rivka Galchen’s riveting debut, Atmospheric Disturbances, toys with many of the traditional mystery-novel tropes and makes us question, yet again, what distinctions exist, if any, between so-called “literary” and “genre” fiction. Between art and not art. But this is no ordinary whodunit: there’s a whole lot more at work here, intellectually speaking, than you’ll find in those airport potboilers. Maybe it’s a kind of anti-mystery. As in some of Paul Auster’s most mind bending, early fiction, Atmospheric Disturbances brilliantly raises more questions than it answers. If anything, we know even less when it’s all over than we did when we started. But Galchen is no Paul Auster nor is she meant to be—she might be even better.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

To read the full piece, please purchase a copy of the magazine from The McSweeney’s Store.

—Andrew Ervin

Andrew Ervin’s short story “The Phillie Phanatic” is in the current Fiction International. He lives in Champaign, Illinois.


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