Monday, July 31, 2006

Well, at least it's a different kind of disappointing.

The Mind-Body Problem turned out to be a really satisfying book in some ways. It's nice to know I can still catch a reference to Kant's categories of perception. And it was nice to read a book that turned so clearly on a philosophical problem, rather than having to make one up myself. Some books do tend to make you do all the heavy lifting of making them meaningful, and this book doesn't have that problem at all.

But the end is disappointing. Disappointing in a way that's worthy of a Nick Hornby heroine (perhaps you hadn't heard--men are worth redeeming, but women should just surrender to resignation and consider it an honor--at least Goldstein doesn't disciminate) or an Edith Wharton novel. If you love Edith Wharton, well, I gotta tell you, this book is spectacular. Go buy it--the Mind-Body Problem by Rebecca Goldstein. But I spent 250 pages with this woman. I listened to characters debate the comparative merits of philosophy and math in dialogue that sounded like a vocabulary test (evidently Princeton folks talk like slangless foreigners). That's fine--that's her given topic, as James would say (in a proof-like argument that Goldstein must appreciate). I just hate that we put in all that work for this ending. I'm not saying I wanted her to win the big game for Princeton in the last 30 seconds. But surely there's some space between Edith Wharton and Rudy that someone could explore.

That said, Edith Wharton is a pretty awesome novelist. And I do know at least one woman who would be crazy about this book. It's highbrow enough for her over-Austened sensibilities and gloomy enough to be "worthwhile" (because in this woman's mind, Jane Austen's only flaw is that the patriarchy convinced her to have all those damn happy endings). I may have to put it in the mail.

This is terrible. It's a good book, honest. I would never want to discourage anyone from reading it. But it's exactly the opposite of the feeling you have when your dieting friend eyes the brownie at a restaurant. You know that it's your duty to push her toward the good-for-you-and-very-tasty salad, but you just want to give her the damn brownie.

This book is really, really good. It's just...well, it's the salad.

Dammit. Don't they publish any brownies any more?

In honor of the Night Listener being made into a movie, that's my next book. I've already read it, and it is the kind of book I want more of. It's the kind of book that lets your hot drinks get cold and your cold drinks get warm, and I still think about the questions it poses years after I put it down. I'm a little nervous about the movie (they seem to be marketing it as a thriller, which surprises me), but the book is mine forever.

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