A Curable Romantic: Book summary and reviews of A Curable Romantic by Joseph Skibell

A Curable Romantic

A Novel

by Joseph Skibell

A Curable Romantic by Joseph Skibell X
A Curable Romantic by Joseph Skibell
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  • Published in USA  Sep 2010
    608 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

As far as romance goes, Dr. Jakob Sammelsohn is fairly incurable. Twice married, once divorced, once widowed—all by the tender age of twelve— he finally flees his small village and his pious, vengeful father. A lovelorn candide, young Dr. Sammelsohn wanders optimistically through history—pursued by the amorous ghost of his dead wife.

Arriving in Vienna in 1890, a chance encounter with Sigmund Freud leads our hero into the arms of Emma Eckstein, one of Freud’s most famous patients. Later he romances the beautiful and wealthy Loë Bernfeld, who carries him into the world of Esperanto and the universal language movement. Finally, Dr. Sammelsohn finds himself in the Warsaw ghetto in 1940, only to become a pawn in a battle over the path to heaven.

A Curable Romantic is a novel of personal and historical exile that could spring only from the literary imagination of a virtuoso. Often fantastical yet always grounded in tradition and history, it is that rare literary feat —a truly incomparable tale, ingenuously told, peopled with characters who live on in the memory.

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BookBrowse Says
"Joseph Skibell’s A Curable Romantic made me aware of just how difficult it is to write a fictional character who slips himself into history and sidles up to once-living historical personages. In this novel, the awkwardness of the conceit far outweighs the story or the religious/philosophical issues such encounters are meant to provoke.

Dr. Jakob Sammelsohn encounters Sigmund Freud on the third page of the novel, and it is a portentous meeting. Sammelsohn is at the opera, peering down from a balcony at a young woman in the audience through a lorngette, when a man seated in front of him rears back his head, smashing the lorgnette into Sammelsohn’s nose. We’re meant to remember that moment forty pages later, when Freud introduces Sammelson to his dear colleague, Dr. Wilhelm Fleiss, who controversially theorized a link between the nose and the genitals. Fifty pages later, the young woman from the opera, a patient whom Freud has encouraged Sammelsohn to court, suffers a massive nosebleed in Sammelsohn’s company.

It is far too stage-directed to induce anything other than cringes in the reader - and not because of the blood and body parts involved. The setting, the time, the important characters all add up to make each scene incredibly portentous, as if history-making moments are about to happen in every chapter. And even when a scene is merely a scene, Skibell invests it with melodrama, as when Sammelsohn arrives early to a dinner with his aunt and uncle: “Caught out like actors behind a curtain that has risen before its cue, Fania and Moritz made off-seeming conversation while seeing to the last of their preparations.” Skibell has made it impossible for himself to portray authentic action. His writing is often marvelous, but it is also often exhaustingly self-important. One wishes Sammelsohn could simply fall out of love and settle down into a quiet, unintrospective life." - Amy Reading

Others Say
"Starred Review. Skibell's fat, cheeky, and sweeping latest...a magnetic collection of personalities." - Publishers Weekly

"Starred Review. A fascinating, ambitious, and very successful novel ... believable, engaging, and often inspiring." - Library Journal

"Intellectual comedy of the highest order." - J.M. Coetzee, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature and author of Summertime and Waiting for the Barbarians.

The information about A Curable Romantic shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's online-magazine that keeps our members abreast of notable and high-profile books publishing in the coming weeks. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author of this book and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

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Author Information

Joseph Skibell

Joseph Skibell is the author of two previous novels, A Blessing on the Moon and The English Disease. He has received a Halls Fiction Fellowship, a Michener Fellowship, and a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship, among other awards. He teaches at Emory University and is the director of the Richard Ellmann Lectures in Modern Literature.

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