Paracelcus, Schrodinger waves, Zeno, German, French, Latin, musicology, quantum mechanics, Flemish painting, staves of musical notation, poems written in computer language, Keynes, ozone depletion, Tesla coils, Yeats, Pythagoras, Poe. Are we to think this noble or kooky? Meanwhile, in the mid's in Brooklyn, Mr. Powers has allowed metaphor to work everywhere on the narrative. Archers at Agincourt; Instruments of the Orchestra.
Indeed, the purpose of this plot setup is less to tell a story than to explore structural possibilities, codes, metaphors, ingenuity in language. There are some lovely scenes, such as when a book-scattering tornado hits the campus and a microbiologist undergoes a dark night of the soul locked in the library overnight; and a farcical and sad episode when a biologist commits suicide and takes all the lab rats with him. She hoped to see me sit behind the Reference Desk until I'd answered as many unanswer ables as I had plagued her with all those years. Are we to think this noble or kooky? At six, I demanded to know why people cried. Also, one might complain that the characterization is a bit slight. Whys multiplied, poking into the places color plates opened but failed to enter. Meanwhile, in the mid's in Brooklyn, Mr. Mother launched into the authorized version of the uses of sorrow. When these scientists have sex -- though they're passionate, and a few beakers are broken in the privacy of utility closets -- nevertheless the descriptions are largely in terms of enzymes, glands, hemodynamics. Why is it that, of the two main female characters, Jeanette is barren and Jan has been sterilized, so that, in a book about reproduction, they can't reproduce? Why does a pun always have an effect like being pinched? There are no depths here; the effects are all superficial and immediate, like a stand-up comedian's routine -- except that rather than jokes we have brilliant tropes. The novel reads as if it's been written from a room-size collection of index cards, so dense is each paragraph. Why, they ask, has Dr. In his third novel, Richard Powers is up to something very unusual. And the recurring four-note pattern in the base line of the "Goldberg" Variations is mystically analogous to the sequences of nucleotides that write life's script in the double helix of the DNA molecule. And how are we to take Jan's quitting the job she loves and risking poverty to take up the study of genetics at home, self-directed? So it righted a cosmic imbalance in her eyes that I ended up answering others' questions for a living. But her scheme backfired. Powers has allowed metaphor to work everywhere on the narrative. Powers's page is Velcro. He writes fiction that aspires to the condition of music, austere and abstract, without being humorless. Powers's first-person narrator, Jan O'Deigh, is joining her new boyfriend, Franklin Todd, in solving the mystery of this same Stuart Ressler -- who 25 years later has sunk to anonymity in a dead-end, graveyard-shift job as a computer programmer. It's a "science" novel, but closer to science fiction in its inventiveness, its hardware vocabulary and software characterization, and in the uncritical pleasure it takes in the purely clever, the nifty. The narration alternates between two time frames.
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