"Two Mad Treasurers"?

2006-09-03 Jim Holt's review of "A Madman Dreams of Turning Machines" in NYTBR :

Such misreadings, along with the incantatory prose and the stylized metaphysical colloquy, make it clear that Levin’s novel is no mere assemblage of biographical transcriptions. We are very much within the mind of an unreliable narrator, one whose dark existential obsessions resonate with the versions of Gödel and Turing she has fashioned. “We are not much,” she tells us. “We are confused and brilliant and stupid, lost clumps of living ash.”

So who is the “madman” of the novel’s title? It can scarcely be Turing, who remained quite sane even as he was being persecuted for his sexuality. Nor can it be Gödel, who, though prone to paranoia, did not dream of Turing machines. Both the narrator and the author would seem to be disqualified by reason of gender. Toward the end of the book, as I let myself be seduced by Levin’s subtle (and perhaps not always intentional) derangements of life and logic, I began to wonder whether it might not be me.

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