Friday, December 17, 2010

Generosity

Day 312 of the "What are you reading, and why?" project, and Dick and the SOBs (a men's book group) just read and discussed Generosity: An Enhancement, by Richard Powers, because they have liked his work in the past.  Previously they read Galatea 2.2 and Three Farmers on the Way to a Dance.


Generosity is a book about discovering the "happiness gene" and the various risks and dangers (some of them emotional, and involving innocence) of that--of the knowing, of science getting involved in happiness, etc.

Galatea 2.2 also engages science, this time in the effort to understand the nature of intelligence, re-seeing the Pygmalion/Galatea myth, where a sculptor falls in love with his statue, in a sort of man-falls-in-love-with-a-computer kind of way.

The man, like the author, is named Richard Powers, so this may be a self-reflexive postmodern kind of thing.  There are various other associations with the name and myth/s of Galatea, and I haven't yet read the book, so I won't make any assumptions here. Powers is known as a very "cerebral" author, so I'm sure he has incorporated whatever ideas and allusions actually pertain.

But I do love that her name, in Ovid's myth (of Acis and Galatea) means "she who is milk white," so here is a milk-white version of her, though from the Pygmalion myth, in which the statue came to life, and they married and had a child.

Three Farmers on the Way to a Dance is about the intersecting stories of people seeking information about a photograph from World War I. Its title sounds so homey and simple, but this appears to be one of those "cerebral" discursive novels that defies traditional linear storytelling. As Library Journal puts it, "Because of its complex plot, this first novel will appeal mainly to sophisticated readers." Still, the SOBs liked it. So I might like it, too. Not that we're not sophisticated and cerebral, er, but....anyhoo...!

Dick was reading Generosity on his iPhone and started highlighting phrases. He liked how the phrases that stood out to him (mentally, and as electronically highlighted) looked and sounded like they could be lyrics in Bob Dylan songs. Oh, my, I do love what people notice when they are reading!

'Tis the season for many appeals to our generosity. May you find your own happy ways to give what you can to anyone in need.

2 comments:

seana said...

I've only read Three Farmers On Their Way to the Dance to Dance, and that many years ago. I did really like it, but I have to admit that I wasn't sure I understood the bigger point he was making. Anyway, I've always meant to read more Powers, yet haven't.

SarahJane said...

huh, when I was weighing which book to read next it was a toss-up between Drood and Galatea 2.2. I went with the former, but do hope to get to the Powers novel next year...