The novel is at the same time an astute and wise portrait of unrequited love (albeit of a very unusual kind), a hilarious academic parody, a novel of ideas, and a social satire. It is utterly original, but in the school of Thomas Pynchon, Don DeLillo, Katherine Dunn, and David Foster Wallace.
Passion, humor, yearning, and knowledge are blended together in a suspenseful love story that could be characterized as "American magical realism".
©1998 Jonathan Lethem; (P)2007 Random House, Inc. Random House Audio, a division of Random House, Inc.
"Exceptionally clever. . . . A book of compelling ideas, of intellectual conflict, of human frailty and desire. And it's funny." (Dallas Morning News)
"Jonathan Lethem has succeeded in delivering a wonderland on the side of the looking glass," (San Francisco Bay Guardian)
"Lethem is opening blue sky for American fiction. . . . He is rapidly evolving into his own previously uncataloged species." (Village Voice Literary Supplement)
If you like the way Lethem's mind works, this book is a look at the way it worked in a more formative stage. It's not a rich, mature work like Chronic City. But it has the wordplay and ideaplay of his later work, in a simpler world, an exploration of something vs. nothing, the nature of reality, and love that doesn't really work.
Title notwithstanding, there's no satisfying carnality in the book.
For someone wanting to try Lethem, I'd recommend starting with Chronic City instead of this. CC is nonstop brilliance, inventive in a way that I'd compare with Humboldt's Gift, though ultimately less literary but more crazy in a good way.
I found this book through the Lab Lit List, which tried to collect novels which depict science and scientists as they actually are.
The narrator of this book is the partner of a physicist at the center of a major discovery. He is, as a character, infuriatingly self-centered. He demands his partner's undivided attention, and insists loudly that she and her colleagues give equal consideration to linguistics and critical theory as a means to understanding particle physics.
In a book featuring a sentient miniature black hole, my suspension of disbelief was ultimately broken by the notion that a practicing physicist would be engaged to such an unlovable ass.
A school administrator and avid reader and listener of books. At least an hour of every day is spent in the car, and that's where the bulk of my listening is done. I tend to listen to books on "faster" mode so I can get through more books!
I didn't hate this, but I didn't love it either. At least I wanted to finish it to find out how it concluded. Someone recommended the book to me and I probably should have done more research before buying it,as I'm not generally a fan of Sci-Fi.
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