The Mayor's Tongue
By Nathaniel Rich
(Riverhead Hardcover, Hardcover, 9781594489907, 320pp.)
Publication Date: April 17, 2008
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A stunningly original novel of literary obsession and imagination that is sure to be one of the most highly anticipated debuts of the year.
From a precociously talented young writer already widely admired in the literary world, The Mayor's Tongue is a bold, vertiginous debut novel that unfolds in two complementary narratives, one following a young man and the other an old man. The young man is Eugene Brentani, aflame with a passion for literature and language, and a devotee of the reclusive author and adventurer Constance Eakins, now living in Italy. The old man is Mr. Schmitz, whose wife is dying, and, confused and terrified, he longs to confide in his dear friend Rutherford. But Rutherford has disappeared, and his letters, postmarked from Italy, become more and more ominous as the weeks pass.
In separate but resonating story lines, both men's adventures take them from New York City to the mountainous borderlands of northern Italy, where the line between reality and imagination begins to blur and stories take on a life of their own. Here, we are immersed in Rich's vivid, enchanting world full of captivating characters-- the despairing Enzo, who wanders looking for a nameless love; the tiny, doll-like guide, Lang; and the grotesque Eakins. Over this strange, spectral landscape looms the Mayor, a mythic and monstrous figure considered a "beautiful creator" by his townspeople, whose pull ultimately becomes irresistible.
From a young writer of exceptional promise, this refreshingly original novel is a meditation on the frustrations of love, the madness of mayors, the failings of language, and the transformative powers of storytelling.