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Corrente Reads Books!

a little night musing's picture

We read books: let's review them here! Leave your reviews in the comments.

Note: you need not write a long review. Just a few words telling us why you are mentioning the book can be useful. And feel free to stretch the definition of "book" if you like.

Personal note: I am having to step back from online stuff while I deal with RL issues including health problems. I am putting this post on autopost for Sunday mornings for the time being, so you can continue to review books for us. Next Sunday it will not go up because of the ECONNED book discussion, but look for it the Sunday after that.

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a little night musing's picture
Submitted by a little night ... on

by Richard Powers.

I mentioned this book last week, and I barely managed to finish it (working around my insane schedule and being really too ill to read). I really wanted to reread it immediately, but had to return it to the NYPL.

I had read a review (I cannot recall where, and can't find it now) of this book which lead me to believe that it was primarily about a woman who has genes which predispose her to having a more cheerful "emotional set point" than the rest of us due to their influence on her neurotransmitter receptors; and the reviewer was very disappointed in Powers for having (in the reveiwer's take) misrepresented or oversimplified the science of neurotransmitters and their relationship to "happiness".

Having read that review, I think I spent the first half of the book looking in vain for the novel that review had described, and as a result, the real novel had to creep up and hit me on the back of the head, which it did about 3/4 of the way through. (I also plead illness!) This is why I really want to go back and reread it. I had to reinterpret everything I had read up until that point. I can only conclude that the reviewer was Richard Powers himself, or someone acting on his behalf, because if this novel is "about" anything it is foremost about writing, about telling stories, about rewriting.

One thing that should have tipped me to this early on is that Powers (speaking through a first-person narrator) comments on his mangled geography of the streets he is having his protagonist go through. This is something I have always noticed about Powers' books: not a big thing, but no one has ever commented on it to my knowledge. Whenever he write about a place I know well, he gets the street names oddly wrong. It is not exactly that he is changing geography to meet the needs of a story; it is more as if he is recalling places he knows somewhat and using a map to try and guess at the names of half-remembered streets. Just one of his little quirks, but here he has the first-person narrator comment on it in passing.

It took me way too long in the book to realize that this first-person narrator was not (as I originally assumed) a stand-in for one of the characters in the book. Well, I'll say no more about that, so that you can have the pleasure of being whiplashed by the unravelling of assumptions through the last part of the novel.

It's about the stories we tell ourselves about our past, the stories we tell ourselves about our genes, the stories our genes tell about us, the stories we tell about science, and how science tries to break out of the thicket of stories to say something real. The science itself plays very little actual role; this book is less "about" genes and neurotransmitters than, for instance, The Gold Bug Variations was "about" the structure of DNA. It is more about how we look at things like that and try to make sense of them, and the way the culture in which we live usurps the stories and makes them into something else.

Submitted by Lex on

I was between books and it was just sitting there so i figured, "why not read it again?"

It's the best short history of the early Soviet Union ever penned, but this time around i found something else at the end of the book. In the final scene where the neighbors visit Animal/Manor Farm to feast with the pigs, Plinkerton toasts the pigs and comments on how much the humans can learn from the way the pigs run Animal Farm.

Given the metaphorical motif of humans as capitalists and pigs as Soviet communists (of the Stalinist variety), i set the book down and felt very much like the animals looking in the farmhouse window. I'm having a hard time telling the difference anymore.

SOScrewed's picture
Submitted by SOScrewed on

Her memoirs about starting a new life in Italy are fabulous. She has three memoirs and I believe several cookbooks. Her writing is just magical.

A Thousand Days in Venice
A Thousand Days in Tuscany
The Lady in the Palazzo

Her books can be found at most libraries.