Gone with the Mind
The blazingly inventive fictional autobiography of Mark Leyner, one of America's "rare, true original voices" (Gary Shteyngart).
Dizzyingly brilliant, raucously funny, and painfully honest, Gone with the Mind is the story of Mark Leyner's life, told as only Mark Leyner can tell it. In this utterly unconventional novel -- or is it a memoir? -- Leyner gives a reading in the food court of a New Jersey shopping mall.
The "audience" consists of Mark's mother and some stray Panda Express employees, who ask a handful of questions. The action takes place entirely at the food court, but the territory covered in these pages has no bounds. A joyride of autobiography, cultural critique, DIY philosophy, biopolitics, video games, demagoguery, and the most intimate confessions, Gone with the Mind is both a soulful reckoning with mortality and the tender story of the relationship between a complicated mother and an even more complicated son.
At once nostalgic and acidic, deeply humane, and completely surreal, Gone with the Mind is a work of pure, hilarious genius.
Leyner (The Sugar Frosted Nutsack) applies his trademark brand of absurd, postmodern metafiction to this interesting autobiographical novel. The fictional Mark Leyner in this book is giving a reading of his new autobiography in the food court of a mall. His mom introduces him, occupying the first 40 pages of the book with a few random stories of his childhood, before letting him speak. The audience, made up of a Panda Express worker and a Sbarro employee on their break, doesn't pay attention at all. Leyner proceeds to explain how the concept of his autobiography evolved from a first-person shooter video game to its current form, with the help of an imaginary intern. The intern serves at points as both his collaborator and his interlocutor in imagined conversations, urging him to work on the autobiography. Throughout his philosophical musings and nonlinear childhood stories, he never really gets around to a traditional autobiography, but he does paint a loving portrait of his mother and recounts a wrenching battle with prostate cancer. The q&a session after the reading is a transcript of a conversation with his mother in a bathroom stall at the mall. Though it's whimsical and unconventional, this is probably Leyner's most mature work. There is plenty of sincere storytelling throughout, and Leyner's masterly ability to interlace humor with existential dilemmas makes for a compelling novel, autobiographical or not.