Book Review: Atmospheric Disturbances by Rivka Galchen

Atmospheric Disturbances
Atmospheric Disturbances by Rivka Galchen
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book reminds me of my experience watching the David Lynch movie Mulholland Dr. While there were parts of this book I enjoyed, I really didn’t understand it. After I watched Mulholland Dr. I was absolutely irate that it made so little sense. I searched all of the sources I could until I found a thread of meaning, and then I watched the movie again with that secret decoder ring, and it made sense and I loved it. Except that I’m not really angry at Atmospheric Disturbances, and I’m not actually interested in doing a lot of research to discover what it might mean.

I’m pretty sure it’s about relationships, and about miscommunications. It seems to be about the assumptions on which we base our observations and how, if those assumptions are flawed, the conclusions we draw about our observations will also be flawed. It also seems to be about how we take for granted those around us, miss out on little details about them until, one day, we just cease to recognize them. Or maybe it’s about how we have an image of the people we love, and when they change and shift outside of that image, we have trouble permitting them to change. It’s quite possibly also about how we distance ourselves to avoid being hurt and how that, ultimately, leaves us confused and alone and hurts those who wish to be close to us.

Or maybe it’s about sanity and its slow slippage and the unreliable narrator (and how there’s no such thing as a “reliable narrator”).

At any rate, I liked the rich description of the physical setting, for example, the smell of the water boiling and the sound of ice breaking off of the glaciers. I enjoyed the little telephone-game type mistakes in spoken language. I liked the mixture of real-life people with fictional, and the metaphor of the elusive Fathers.

But I could probably benefit from some discussion with others who’ve read this book (or just someone to spoon-feed me the meaning because I’m a frazzled, chronically sleep-deprived mom who really can’t be bothered with this kind of thing anymore) because even though I found it enjoyable to read, I just don’t really get it.

Or I could just leave it at that and move on to the next book on my list.

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