'The Mayor's Tongue' a strange trip


  “The Mayor’s Tongue” by Nathaniel Rich is as odd as its name. It’s a bit like an acid trip, not that I would know anything about that.
  College graduate Eugene Brentani moves to Manhattan after telling his estranged father he is moving to Florida. In Manhattan, Eugene begins working for a moving company, which leads him to meet Abe Chisholm, the biographer of Eugene’s favorite writer, Constance Eakins, who might or might not be dead. Abe, who could possibly be crazy, also has a beautiful daughter with whom Eugene quickly becomes fascinated. When Abe becomes concerned about his daughter’s welfare after she goes on a trip to Italy, Eugene flies off to search for her and possibly Eakins with whom she could be — if he is alive.
  Mr. Schmitz also lives in Manhattan. He seems a bit daft and finds joy only in the company of his best friend, Rutherford. When Rutherford moves to Milan, Mr. Schmitz is at a loss. Now he’s left only with his wife, that is until she kicks the bucket. Poor Mr. Schmitz — feeling all alone with no one to talk to, not that he talked much to his wife — decides to head to Italy to find Rutherford.
  While on their separate quests, Eugene and Mr. Schmitz end up in Carso, a mysterious region in the mountains filled with unusual characters. Carso seems more like a dream state than a real place, and the book certainly turns toward the realm of fantasy, especially when Eugene meets the Mayor.
  If this all sounds a bit confusing that’s because it is — surreal confusing, like falling down the rabbit hole.
  “The Mayor’s Tongue” is funny and strange, well-written and eloquent. It's a story within a story within a story about people not being able to communicate with each other, whether they are father and son, husband and wife, or simply friends.
  In the press material, Rich says the book’s central theme is language.
  “I wanted to write about the deep human desire to communicate with another person, to express one’s greatest fears and hopes and emotions, to be truly understood — and the impossibility of ever perfectly achieving this. Language’s frailties can be maddening, but there’s also something beautiful and wondrous about the efforts we make to reach out to others just the same.”
  Rich does create a mad yet beautiful world in “The Mayor’s Tongue,” and following Eugene and Mr. Schmitz as they chase their white rabbit is one bizarre trip.