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Gold Bug Variationsby Richard Powers
Synopses & Reviews
A national bestseller, voted by Time as the #1 novel of 1991, selected as one of the "Best Books of 1991" by Publishers Weekly, and nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award a magnificent story that probes the meaning of love, science, music, and art, by the brilliant author of Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance.
"Triumphantly true to form, Powers continues the densely layered and intricate plotting found in his earlier novels in this stunning epic that delves into molecular genetics, music, and information science, eloquently combining the mysteries of love and the passionate pursuit of knowledge....Ranging in detail from genetic formulas to musical ones (with the title a typically witty reference to both Bach's variations and the Poe short story), replete with scintillating characters...and structurally as well-tempered as a Bach fugue, the harmonious interplay between personal and scientific drama is both challenging and exquisite. A formidable masterpiece, deeply vital and sparkling in its many facets, whimsical in its prose yet precise in its elucidation rewarding in every sense but, in particular, a profoundly moving love story." Kirkus Reviews
"The purpose of [the] plot setup is less to tell a story than to explore structural possibilities, codes, metaphors, ingenuity in language....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....Almost every sentence is a heroic tour de force built around a fascinating gimmick of language....If one were to have a small complaint, amid this stunning virtuosity, one might wish for fewer puns....Also, one might complain that the characterization is a bit slight....[The] novel is a dense, symmetrical symphony in which no note goes unsounded." Louis B. Jones, The New York Times Book Review
"Powers is a recipient of a MacArthur 'genius' grant, and it seems appropriate: this strange, overwritten, often infuriating, manically intelligent, and sometimes deeply moving novel could hardly have been produced by a writer of mere talent. Powers has woven an extraordinary knowledge of music, of science (particularly of the search for genetic coding, and of computer programming), of the mysteries of language and art history, into a saga that is dazzling and wearying in almost equal measure....Not a great deal happens, in a conventional narrative sense....Despite occasional bewilderment at arid patches of scientific jargon and interminable displays of arcane knowledge for its own sake, a reader persists with The Gold Bug Variations....For there is a perpetual air of surprise about the book, of intellectual excitement, a passionate involvement with words that expands into delightfully witty dialogue and profoundly evocative description. Reading it is hard work, but it's also deeply enriching; the decade is not likely to bring another novel half as challenging and original." Publishers Weekly
"Some may find this novel's title, with its punning allusions to Bach's Goldberg Variations and Poe's short story 'The Gold Bug,' a little too cute, and they are probably right. On the other hand, The Gold Bug Variations passes the truth-in-advertising test: the label accurately reflects the additives Bach and Poe to the contents inside and warns away consumers who prefer their fiction plain. The rest are in for a read of dazzling, sometimes intimidating complexity, which includes, among many, many other things, two love stories...a detective story...thumbnail histories of Western music and painting and of newer subjects like information theory and computer programming; a white-knuckle account of the race to find the meaning of life within a molecule; and the constant hum of intellectual enchantment....[Each of] the four main characters...is a welcome rarity in contemporary fiction: an intelligent, interesting and sympathetic actor in the drama of daily life." Paul Gray, Time magazine
"[This work is] not meant to be read for its characters or events, but for its dense, insistent way with words, its sometimes zany obsession with data....Overdosing on jargon, or data for data's sake, proves temporarily exhilarating but ultimately exhausting....Derivative from Pynchon, often fatiguing and (like its title) sometimes tiresomely clever, The Goldbug Variations attimes succeeds in holding the attention....But the master allegory (novelist/scientist cracking the code, unveiling the chemistry of life) collapses under its own inbuilt overload." Roy Porter, The Times Literary Supplement
A national bestseller, voted by Time as the #1 novel of 1991, selected as one of the "Best Books of 1991" by Publishers Weekly, and nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award--a magnificent story that probes the meaning of love, science, music, and art, by the brilliant author of Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance.
About the Author
Richard Powers is a MacArthur Fellow. He lives in Urbana, Illinois.
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