The Confabulist PDF/EPUB µ Paperback

The Confabulist From the author of the bestselling, Richard and Judy selected The Cellist of Sarajevo comes a spellbinding novel of Harry Houdini his loves and life, the illusions and the intrigue, and his shocking sudden deathHow much of our lives is real and how much is an illusion The world s gaze is focussed on the feats and daring of the amazing Harry Houdini, while not a soul is aware of down and out Martin Strauss However, Strauss fate is inextricably linked with the magician s, and as Houdini continues to rise, and Strauss continues to fall, their lives will converge in spectacular and devastating fashion At once entertaining and suspenseful, historically rich and cleverly told, The Confabulist is an novel of magic and memory, truth and illusion, and the ways that love, hope, grief, and imagination can for better or for worse alter what we perceive and what we believe


10 thoughts on “The Confabulist

  1. says:

    What no one knows, save for myself and one other person who likely died long ago, is that I didn t just kill Harry Houdini I killed him twice Stephen Galloway, the award winning author of The Cellist of Sarajevo, takes on a legendary real life character and tries to make some magic with his lesser known history He tells a tale of Houdini, vaudevillian superstar, greatest magician of his time, escape artist extraordinaire and, maybe, an international spy Martin Strauss is none of these thi What no one knows, save for myself and one other person who likely died long ago, is that I didn t just kill Harry Houdini I killed him twice Stephen Galloway, the award winning author of The Cellist of Sarajevo, takes on a legendary real life character and tries to make some magic with his lesser known history He tells a tale of Houdini, vaudevillian superstar, greatest magician of his time, escape artist extraordinaire and, maybe, an international spy Martin Strauss is none of these things When we meet him, in the present day of the tale, he has learned that he has just gotten some bad news Yours is a rare condition, the doctor said, seeming almost excited, in which the damage that is being done to your brain does not destroy cognitive function but instead affects your brain s ability to store and process memories In response to this, your brain will invent new memories So, Harry Houdini meets Memento The authorStrauss, a student in Montreal, is fascinated with magic, although he is not a capable practitioner He is smitten with a young lady who shares his interest, and when they have a chance to see the great Harry Houdini perform, they avail Strauss is not the most secure beau and when the object of his desire seemsinterested in the famed escape artist than is comfortable, things get heated.On October 31, 1926, the real life Houdini died from a ruptured appendix A few days earlier, in Montreal, a student named Whitehead was granted permission to punch Houdini in the stomach, a test of the performer s claim that it would not hurt him Under normal circumstances it might not have, but it turned out that Houdini was compromised with a case of appendicitis He kept traveling and performing, but was brought to a hospital in Detroit, in severe pain, and died there Ascribing his death to the student s blows was really a ploy to get his life insurance to pay double Houdini s death has always really interested me What would it be like to be the guy who punched Harry Houdini in the stomach from the Globe and Mail interview There are alternating tale tellers in The Confabulist Martin Strauss speaks for himself, and the Houdini chapters are told by an omniscient narrator The time lines are dual as well, present day alternating with a past that advances from 1897, before Houdini had achieved world wide renown, to 1927, as Martin recalls and we see for ourselves what transpired We cover some real estate in The Confabulist, as well, from Canada to New York to sundry locales in Europe.Houdini image from wikimediaWe get to see how the gifted Erik Weisz, a Budapest born son of a rabbi, became the amazing Houdini, professionally and theatrically There are explanations for a few of the stage tricks of the age, and that is a particular bit of fun There is some insight into how the entertainment business of the early 20th century was run, and a look at the latter day Houdini as an exposer of charlatan psychics and spiritualists When asked how he landed on Houdini for his new novel, Galloway says he was fascinated by the showman s iconic status, but also by the fact that Houdini himself was a sort of fiction Most magicians are kind of made up characters, but himthan any He s a Hungarian Jew pretending to be Mr America Most of what he said about himself biographically was a total, total lie So I just kind of arrived there and never left from the Globe and Mail interviewStrauss s history is far less interesting, but in his musings we get at some of the thematic issues of the novel Some insight into international intelligence goings on of the period is also noteworthy What is real and what an illusion is a consistent theme throughout the tale, on stage and off How is it we can be so sure that we ve seen, heard and experienced what we think we have In a magic trick, the things you don t see or think you see have a culmination, because at the end of the trick there s an effect Misdirection tampers with reconstruction But if life works the same way, and I believe it does, then a percentage of our lives is a fiction There s no way to know whether anything we have seen or experienced is real or imagined or a memory isn t a finished product, it s a work in progress So does Galloway succeed in making magic Only somewhat There are two issues I had with the book One is the inherent difficulty of having an unreliable narrator That this is done openly from the opening chapter does not make it any less problematic How are we to know if what Strauss reports is true or imagined And if one cannot know if what he reports is real, it makes for difficulty in relating to his experience, and knowing for ourselves that what we are reading is or is not an accurate rendering of events The dimorphism between the wonderful tale of Houdini s and the far less gripping tale of Martin Strauss makes one want to slip the knots of Martin s chapters to make one s way back to the real action And, while the story of Houdini does succeed in holding our interest, it seemed to me that there remained a distance between reader and character, even for Houdini, that kept one from the sort of emotional engagement that is needed if we are to feel much for him Martin is an obvious literary device, so one does not hope for too much there But one does want to feelof an investment in Houdini than was possible here There are compelling elements at play in The Confabulist The contemplation of reality versus illusion counts as a strength On the other hand, the rationale for Strauss s attack on Houdini seemed forced One would expect that there is a marvelous story encased in the available elements Unfortunately, the tale is only able to extract a limb or two and remains locked up While there is no obvious tell in the author s literary sleight of hand, there is certainly enough going on to sustain a reader s interest, this remains an instance when the magic simply does not quite go poof.Publication date 5 6 14Posted here 6 20 14This review was originally posted at Fantasy Book Critic on 6 16 14It has also been posted at Cootsreviews.com EXTRA STUFFThe condition ascribed to Martin Strauss was discovered by one Sergei Korsakoff, a Russian neuropsychiatrist, who is represented in The Confabulist by a Russian Dr Korsakoff practicing in the West, presumably New York Here is some info on the actual condition.A bit of info on Harry HoudiniInterviews with the author from The Globe and Mail and The National PostHoudini s grave


  2. says:

    I m not sure if I ve recommended this author before or not, but the book I want to recommend this month is THE CONFABULIST by Steven Galloway The first of his books I read was ASCENSION, and it had one of the most riveting opening chapters I have ever read This new book is about the magician Houdini and the man who killed him It is a twisted puzzler wrapped around the lives of the two man and many others, a love story for each, and the ways in which we view life when we want to remake it Thi I m not sure if I ve recommended this author before or not, but the book I want to recommend this month is THE CONFABULIST by Steven Galloway The first of his books I read was ASCENSION, and it had one of the most riveting opening chapters I have ever read This new book is about the magician Houdini and the man who killed him It is a twisted puzzler wrapped around the lives of the two man and many others, a love story for each, and the ways in which we view life when we want to remake it This kept me reading all the way through It does not have an opening chapter of the same power as ASCENSION, but the close will make you think twice about what you thought this book was about


  3. says:

    confabulate k n f bj le t vb1 to talk together converse chat.2 psychiatry to replace the gaps left by a disorder of the memory with imaginary remembered experiences consistently believed to be true.As The Confabulist opens, the aging Martin Strauss meets with a doctor who explains that Strauss is in the process of losing his mind while he will continue to perform all of his normal functions, his memories will disappear and be replaced with imaginary ones This is a doubly interesting c confabulate k n f bj le t vb1 to talk together converse chat.2 psychiatry to replace the gaps left by a disorder of the memory with imaginary remembered experiences consistently believed to be true.As The Confabulist opens, the aging Martin Strauss meets with a doctor who explains that Strauss is in the process of losing his mind while he will continue to perform all of his normal functions, his memories will disappear and be replaced with imaginary ones This is a doubly interesting condition to affect him since memories and guilt have plagued Strauss his entire adult life, because as he reveals right away, he s the man who killed Harry Houdini Twice As he meets with Houdini s daughter Alice, Strauss is compelled to unburden himself of his past to apologise for depriving her of a father The book timeshifts between Strauss on the day of the diagnosis, the history of Houdini, Strauss early days, the fateful meeting where Strauss suckerpunched the great magician, and Strauss subsequent years In addition to all of these shifts, each section usually had two time frames one present action and a related memory that shifted back and forth This might sound confusing, but it worked since as the title suggests the nature of memory is a major theme of The ConfabulistIn a magic trick, the things you don t see or think you see have a culmination, because at the end of the trick there s an effect Misdirection tampers with reconstruction But if life works the same way, and I believe it does, then a percentage of our lives is fiction There s no way to know whether anything we ve experienced is real or imagined Much of the Houdini information was interesting and the excitement was ratcheted up with spies and death threats, the debunking of powerful spiritualists, and a philosophical feud with Sir Arthur Conan Doyle The Strauss sections worked less well for me this unreliable narrator didn t do too much, and in the end, can never even explain what compelled him to throw that punch and if Steven Galloway is going to use this real person s infamy in a work of fiction, I think he owes it to the man to at least construct a reasonable motivation Much of the philosophising about memory and there is a lot of it was a bit vague to me and I think that this book will be interesting to readers to the extent this they find this bit near the end insightfulWe think that our minds are like a library the right book is there somewhere if you can find it A whole story will then unfold with you as the narrator But our memory changes, evolves, erases Moments disappear and are replaced and combined What s left of a person after they re gone is a spirit of who and what they were.This is where our pain comes from Because we know this is going to happen We feel it and it underwrites our mourning.For all of us the future is an unmade promise For the living there is the present and the past The past is always moving, always changing, as the people we lose are transformed in us The past is no place to live But it s the only place the dead lived On the other hand, there were many passages that I did find well written and evocative, and these are just a couple of examplesDarkness has a way of making everything louder There s no way to identify the sounds coming at you You can imagine what they are, but it s always a guess, based on what you remember about the world before the light went out of it AndHe d always thought a theatre felt strange without people in it With its seats empty, its lights up, and its air still, it reminded him of a dead body I remember enjoying The Cellist of Sarajevo, and most especially for the research just as I thought Galloway did a masterful job of evoking the terrible siege of that city, I think that he excels here in bringing Harry Houdini to life and making him even larger than the known legend by adding fictional elements to his life s work Where both books fall short is in inducing empathy for the purely fictional characters, and since I didn t really care about Martin Strauss in The Confabulist, it became a less than perfect reading experience view spoiler And I can t imagine most people wouldn t see the twist ending coming, but perhaps like an audience member looking for smoke and mirrors, I ruined that for myself by not submitting to the misdirection hide spoiler


  4. says:

    I received an Advance Reader Copy of this one in exchange for an honest review, so here goes with my honestyHarry Houdini led a fascinating life His career was only part of it He was a magician s magician, an aviator, and a fierce opponent of the spiritualism movement Martin Strauss, the supposed 2 time killer of Houdini in The Confabulist, never existed I guess I was hoping for a slightlyfleshed out version of the story of the life and many death s of Harry Houdini, but instead I received an Advance Reader Copy of this one in exchange for an honest review, so here goes with my honestyHarry Houdini led a fascinating life His career was only part of it He was a magician s magician, an aviator, and a fierce opponent of the spiritualism movement Martin Strauss, the supposed 2 time killer of Houdini in The Confabulist, never existed I guess I was hoping for a slightlyfleshed out version of the story of the life and many death s of Harry Houdini, but instead it was a completely fabricated spy story, with only partially realized characters I knew that Houdini s opposition to the spiritualism movement won him many enemies, but the speculation in this book brought me so far outside the story, that I couldn t enjoy it The best parts of the book were, by far, the descriptions of Houdini s escapes, while the parts about Strauss were so washed out that I was unable to get a sense of him as a character I think I should have learned by now that fictionalized biographies and fabricated accounts of real people almost always fall flat in my opinion, with a few notable exceptions I think I should have rather read a biography of Harry Houdini


  5. says:

    I received this as an ARC in a Goodreads First Reads Giveaway Martin Strauss suffers from a condition called tinnitus This condition blurs his memory and often it is difficult for him to distinguish real memories from those his mind fabricates He is often confused, but one thing that is very clear in his mind is that he is the man who killed Harry Houdini TWICE When a young woman named Alice comes into Martin Strauss life claiming to be Houdini s daughter we learn that Houdini was I received this as an ARC in a Goodreads First Reads Giveaway Martin Strauss suffers from a condition called tinnitus This condition blurs his memory and often it is difficult for him to distinguish real memories from those his mind fabricates He is often confused, but one thing that is very clear in his mind is that he is the man who killed Harry Houdini TWICE When a young woman named Alice comes into Martin Strauss life claiming to be Houdini s daughter we learn that Houdini was a bit of a philanderer demanding answers about her father s life and death, Martin narrates the story of his own life as well as that of Harry Houdini In a bar one evening the paths of their lives cross in the most sudden of manners and Martin s life changes irrevocably From that day on his life is linked to Houdini The book slips back and forth between Houdini s early 1900 s and Martin s present day.Steven Galloway The Cellist of Sarajevo , through Martin Strauss, tells the story of Houdini from his beginnings as a Vaudeville performer through to his reign as the most well known man in the world That story in itself would have been interesting enough but Mr Galloway adds to it with so muchHe explores Houdini s, sometimes turbulent, marriage to Bess his close relationship with his mother we learn the reason behind Houdini s non stop quest to debunk spiritualists even taking on Margery Crandon the Witch of Beacon Hill , and his foray into international espionage The Confabulist is populated with many of Houdini s contemporaries including The Romanov family, Rasputin, Arthur Conan Doyle and prominent members of the U.S political arena of the time Mr Galloway weaves all of it into an exciting, globetrotting, sometimes humorous, often suspenseful, and occasionally heartbreaking dare I say it magical story Not to mention that he offers explanations and the how to of a few of the famous magician s tricks and escapes as well.I would not hesitate to recommend this book to friends Mr Galloway managed to let the main characters shine and the many, many other people populating this story to move it along nicely in the background He also navigates smoothly between Martin Strauss present day telling of the story while spending time with Alice and the 1920 s story itself I must admit that my knowledge of Houdini is limited to the movie starring Tony Curtis so I found the information about Houdini himself fascinating I may need to pick up a biography if I can find a good one.And like any good magic trick this book led up to a surprise twist at the end


  6. says:

    A very intriguing book It tells interwoven stories of two men whose paths scarcely crossed in real life Houdini, the great magician and escape artist, and a man called Martin Strauss Strauss was young man, probably in his early twenties, when he first met Houdini in 1926 The book opens in the present day, when a much older Strauss is meeting with a doctor, who is explaining that there is something medically wrong with Strauss Strauss is gradually losing his memory, and his brain is replacin A very intriguing book It tells interwoven stories of two men whose paths scarcely crossed in real life Houdini, the great magician and escape artist, and a man called Martin Strauss Strauss was young man, probably in his early twenties, when he first met Houdini in 1926 The book opens in the present day, when a much older Strauss is meeting with a doctor, who is explaining that there is something medically wrong with Strauss Strauss is gradually losing his memory, and his brain is replacing the lost memories with false memories, confabulations, so that Strauss will, over time, cease to know which of his memories are real The book alternates between chapters about Houdini going back to 1897 , chapters about Strauss as a young man 1926 27 , and chapters set in the present day Over the course of the book we learn a lot about magic tricks how they work, what elements are essential to make them work and about the workings of the human mind how do know whether what we have seen is true Both men lead very exciting lives, and their combined stories make for a very engaging book


  7. says:

    Well what a fascinating story If you are interested in Houdini, or magic like I am,you would certainly want to read this book Galloway is such a diverse novelist and I can t wait to read what he has in store next The Cellist of Sarajevo was outstanding The Confabulist is a wondrous and mysterious tale Fiction is in the hands of a master when you are dealing with those who are craftsmen.


  8. says:

    I know that some other reviews have complained about the fact vs fiction part of this book, but I am choosing to just look at this as a story, as I have no real knowledge about Houdini s life, and after reading The Confabulist it makes me wonder if anybody has the real story on Houdini anyways I really enjoyed it, all of the twists and turns that it takes and the idea that not everything is as it seems, that even our own memories have ways of playing tricks on us My only complaint is that I di I know that some other reviews have complained about the fact vs fiction part of this book, but I am choosing to just look at this as a story, as I have no real knowledge about Houdini s life, and after reading The Confabulist it makes me wonder if anybody has the real story on Houdini anyways I really enjoyed it, all of the twists and turns that it takes and the idea that not everything is as it seems, that even our own memories have ways of playing tricks on us My only complaint is that I did not feel a bond with Martin Strauss, the man who killed Houdini I know this is probably because a good portion of the book focusses on Houdini and not Martin, and also because when we are first introduced to Martin in the book he is very confused about everything and is questioning himself and his memories constantly This made me question everything he was remembering for the remainder of the book, so I never really got a good feel for his character.After turning the final page, I was left with a desire to read about Houdini, and then re read this book But then I also think that if I DO read about Houdini and then re read The Confabulist that it will just raisequestions about what is real and what is confabulated, and also about what my mind will allow me to believe Intriguing stuff I love when books make me question my reality I received this advanced reading copy as a giveaway on Goodreads and this in no way affected my review Thanks Goodreads and Random House


  9. says:

    I m very conflicted about this book, on one hand it had a very intriguing plot based on who Harry Houdini was and what all he possibly had done The book focusses on Harry Houdini and Martin Strauss whose lives intersect with regularity and a tad bit of magical realism The story structure has several flashbacks and flashforwards so as to say , this can be quite confusing for any reader to keep track of.Overall I would say this book is a decent story which doesn t quite match up to the blurb an I m very conflicted about this book, on one hand it had a very intriguing plot based on who Harry Houdini was and what all he possibly had done The book focusses on Harry Houdini and Martin Strauss whose lives intersect with regularity and a tad bit of magical realism The story structure has several flashbacks and flashforwards so as to say , this can be quite confusing for any reader to keep track of.Overall I would say this book is a decent story which doesn t quite match up to the blurb and what it tries to aim for Ultimately it s a 3 1 2 star book


  10. says:

    Steven Galloway s The Confabulist is a muchambitious book than his earlier work The Confabulist, like Harry Houdini, is elusive, deals with misdirection, plays with time, and attempts to answer many questions about one s memory, the changing faces of appearance and reality, and the nature of human motivations and relationships The book is an exploration of its title A Confabulist noun is a word from psychiatry, and means the replacement of a gap in a person s memory by a falsification Steven Galloway s The Confabulist is a muchambitious book than his earlier work The Confabulist, like Harry Houdini, is elusive, deals with misdirection, plays with time, and attempts to answer many questions about one s memory, the changing faces of appearance and reality, and the nature of human motivations and relationships The book is an exploration of its title A Confabulist noun is a word from psychiatry, and means the replacement of a gap in a person s memory by a falsification that he or she believes be true.In order to evolve the title of the book into a narrative, Galloway shifts time frames with regularity from the present, where the book begins, to the past Galloway weaves the story of Houdini s rise to prominence with that of Martin Strauss, the man who believes he killed Houdini, and is the narrator of the story, and the man who is slowly losing his memory and becoming a confabulist It is a fascinating premise for a novel and holds much promise for a study of memory and magic.To me, however, there were too many rough patches I The book we have many explanations of how Houdini created his magic, too many After a while I lost interest in the manner in which the magic occurred The novel tells how Houdini became evolved with political intrigue, spiritualists, and love affairs among other events Weaving in and out of the narrative, and flashing back and forth in time, we also follow the life of Martin Strauss as he searches for the reason why he hit Houdini, as he is recruited to be a spy, and then his adventures as he tries to hide from others who desire to harm him.Now, I get the fact that Martin s mind is fading, and the fact that there are parallels between how one perceives and believes in magic while, at the same time, knowing it is not as it appears Still, for me, the book stuttered too often, began to drag too much nearing the end and was not completely successful in its time shifts.For me, not enough magic to give the bookthan three stars


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