|Piloting a flying balcony with Benito Mussolini, a first-person video game shooter fights his way back to his mother's uterus and unravels the DNA in the zygote that will eventually—if unchecked—result in the author's birth. That is ostensibly what "Gone with the Mind" is about. But the novel is really about the author who wrote this novel giving a reading of the book in the food court of a New Jersey mall before a disinterested audience comprised of two slackers on break from their counter jobs at Sbarro's & Panda Express.|
The first forty pages of this novel—a long introductory biographical monologue by the author's mother delivered at the food court—and the last forty pages—a treacly resolution featuring a fairy godmother in the form of a tarot card reader, a glowing testimonial to the surgeon who removed the author's cancerous prostate, and a love letter in the form of a dialogue between the author and his mother are, respectively, a slog and unbearably sappy.
But the middle of "Gone with the Mind" is electrifying. It's impossible to describe, really, except as a freewheeling, free-associative intellectual ramble that traverses everything and anything high and low, including science, culture, history, literary theory, sexuality, mental illness, mortality, and the author's aforementioned borderline incestuous Oedipal relationship with his adored mother…it's all a bit like listening to the interior monologue of a brilliant lunatic with no exterior censor whose ideas and intuitions are paradoxical, paranoiac, certifiable, and, you uncomfortably suspect, absolutely spot-on.
What this book really constitutes is a new kind of fictional autobiography—or perhaps an autobiographical fiction—in which Leyner dissolves the border between the two forms to an unprecedented degree to feed what David Shields has called our insatiable "reality hunger." Who wants to hear made-up stories and contrived plots any more? What we want is the real dope. What we want are true-life confessions. What we haven't heard yet is what it's really like to be a human being. Or, in this case, Mark Leyner.
If you read only one book this year, you're probably an idiot & you won't understand or appreciate "Gone with the Mind," it'll fly right over your head (or tunnel right beneath your feet) but if you read a lot of intelligent books this year "Gone with the Mind" will surely stick with you and stand out as one of the most unique & original of the lot.