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Oct. 6 2009 - 4:43 pm | 1 views | 0 recommendations | 3 comments

The Simu-Nation “Book Club”: Generosity: An Enhancement by Richard Powers

Generosity: An Enhancement

Generosity: An Enhancement

Want to read a book together, especially one that might illuminate as well as infuriate?

I hope so because I’m starting a book club “experiment” here on T/S, and Powers new book seems a great way to enrich our dialogue about building a good life in our emerging culture of simulation.

I admit it, this is something of a gamble. First, I’ve never done something like this on T/S. To leave plenty of time for a leisurely read (this is not homework!!!) lets plan to start talking about the book on Monday, November 2. I’ll start us off with a posting and then we can all go to town.

Tell your friends, your family. Contact relatives in far away cities so we can do this together. Read the book and then bring it over to your neighbor. The more people we can get interested, the richer the conversation will be.

And the second part of the gamble is, well,  I have not yet actually read Generosity. If you decide to give it a read we’ll be going ahead blindly together. But I think the quality and relevance of the book is a pretty safe bet,  the reviews really ignited my curiosity and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

The reviews ranged from the ecstatic to the terribly annoyed. Jay Mcinerney In the NY Times says “As it turns out, his new novel, “Generosity,” is an excellent introduction to Powers’s work, a lighter, leaner treatment of his favorite themes and techniques.” In the Harvard Crimson, Adam Palay calls it a “stunning new novel.” And in Bookforum John Domini gushes,

The story postulates the existence of a “happiness gene” that would enhance the whole species. Thassa Amzwar, improbably happy despite her suffering, might be the donor who will usher in the “age of molecular control.” Yet the novel’s affect, first to last, isn’t admonitory so much as amazed, a word half-buried in Amzwar’s name. Generosity may be jam-packed, but it’s genius: It soars, it boggles.

via  joy decision – bookforum.com / in print.

At the other end of the spectrum, pretty far away from thinking it boggling, soaring, genius, is James Wood in The New Yorker. Stating that quotes he provides  from The Echo Maker, Powers 2006 National Book Award winner, are “the prose equivalent of the Lifetime channel,” Wood says of Powers’s new book, “‘Generosity’ his most schematic and coarse, exaggerates the weaknesses of his better work.”

Clearly,  we will have to make up our own minds! And that is part of the fun. So, how about it? At the risk of being just a little bit too Mickey Rooney, c’mon everybody, lets give it a try! Let’s give it a read and start talking about it at the beginning of November.


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  1. collapse expand

    Hi Todd,

    First of all, thanks for a great column and helping to pave the way toward a brave new world.

    I love the idea of an online reading group. I’ve hosted online “meet the author” events on virtual/social networking forums, and they were successful venues for generating real discussion. So good luck with generosity.

    Reading your review, I was intrigued. When I read about the idea of a generosity gene, I thought of a retrovirus which could infect humanity and insert this gene widely. Ensuing visions of u- and dys- topia.

    This reminds me of the book Just a Couple of Days, by Tony Vigorito, in which a military virus – designed to render the enemy helpless by selectively destroying the language centers of the brain (leaving the infrastructure of the nation intact ala neutron bomb)- ends up leading to a self-organizing giant happy dance for the affected citizens when the virus gets loose. They seem to do better without language.

    Thanks again for your column,
    Grant

  2. collapse expand

    Hi, Todd:

    I, too, really like your idea of an online reading group and this selection seems an interesting one with which to start.

    I am looking forward to participating and hearing others’ thoughts.

    –Catherine

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