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Mating Cover

ISBN13: 9780679737094
ISBN10: 067973709x
Condition: Standard
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Reading Group Guide

1. Mating is narrated in the voice of a woman, a graduate student in nutritional anthropology. Why might Norman Rush have made this particular narrative choice? How convincing is his depiction of a womans consciousness and point of view? Why is it important that the story be told by a woman? By an anthropologist?

2. The narrator describes herself as suffering from “scriptomania,” [p. 407] the need to get everything in her life into writing. “The point is to exclude nothing” [p. 26]. Why does she feel such a compelling urge to write everything down? What is the value of “telling everything”?

3. Why does the narrator describe her affairs with men just prior to meeting Denoon? How do they set up or illuminate what follows? In what respects is Denoon different from, and superior to, the men who precede him?

4. What are the main characteristics of life at Tsau? In what sense is it an attempt at utopia? How is it different from both Western and African societies? Does it offer a successful alternative to these societies?

5. The narrator observes, “One difference between women and men is that women really want paradise. Men say they do, but what they mean by it is absolute security, which they can obtain only through utter domination of the near and dear and the environment as far as the eye can see” [p. 44]. Is this an accurate assessment? In what ways does Tsau seek to alter this version of paradise as male domination? What other hard truths does the novel deliver about relations between men and women?

6. Why is organized religion kept out of Tsau? What does Denoon believe to be the taproot of religion?

7. What picture emerges of the African residents of Tsau? What role do such characters as Dineo, Dorcas, and Raboupi play in the novel? How do they regard the only whites in Tsau, the narrator and Denoon?

8. After a bitterly contentious parlamente meeting, in which Denoon is verbally attacked, the narrator remarks “Yesterday was a catastrophe trying to tell us something like that Tsau is an organism trying to deal with us as foreign bodies. Yesterday was only the latest trope” [p. 380]. Why do the villagers grow hostile to Denoon? Why do they mistrust him? In what senses are Denoon and the narrator “foreign bodies”?

9. The narrator tries to avoid thinking of marriage as “a form of slowed-down wrestling where the two parties keep trying different holds on each other until one of them gets tired and goes limp, at which point you have the canonical happy marriage, voilà” [p. 381]. What kind of relationship do she and Denoon have? What has drawn them together? What threatens to pull them apart?

10. Mating is a vast and intellectually challenging novel that incorporates history, politics, philosophy, anthropology, economics, feminism, and much more into its narrative scope. Why has Norman Rush chosen to call it Mating? Is it chiefly a love story?

11. During an argument, Denoon asks the narrator, “Cant anything be innate?… Does everything have to be an exfoliation from the minutiae of our miserable childhoods?” [p. 208] What connection does the novel reveal between Denoons childhood and his adulthood? According to the narrator, what are the seminal and shaping events of his early life? Is Denoon right to question the explanatory value of referring everything back to ones childhood?

12. Does the narrator make the right choice by leaving Denoon and Africa? Is she correct in thinking Denoon had suffered a nervous breakdown and become “insanely passive,” an “impostor,” after his ordeal in the desert? Or did Denoon have a genuinely mystical experience?

13. After she returns to the United States, the narrator writes, “Being in America is like being stabbed to death with a butter knife by a weakling” [p. 470]. What does she mean by this? What does this characterization suggest about the differences between life in Africa and America? Why would her life in Africa incline her to experience America in this way?

14. At the end of the novel, after she has returned to the states, the narrator argues that the major affliction of our age is “corporatism unbound.” She goes on to say “What is becoming sovereign in the world is not the people but the limited liability corporation . . . thats whats concentrating sovereign power to rape the world and overenrich the top minions who run these entities”; and, finally she asserts that the “true holocaust in the world is the thing we call development . . . the superimposition of market economies on traditional and unprepared third world cultures” [p. 471]. Have events in the past decade, in the United States and around the world, confirmed or refuted these arguments?

15. Mating ends with the narrator asserting that she is going back to Africa? Why does she make this decision? Why does Rush choose to end the novel in this way?

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genevievedell, December 17, 2008 (view all comments by genevievedell)
A Faberge onion to be slowly peeled. Elegant in its prose, each layer demands specific and alert attention from the reader; which it then richly rewards. Passion and intellect intertwine in this dissertation on love, its making, undoing, and lasting consequence. Superb.
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Product Details

Rush, Norman
New York :
Love & Romance
Man-woman relationships
Women anthropologists
Love stories
Mate selection
Women anthropologists -- Botswana -- Fiction.
Women anthropologists -- Fiction.
Literature-A to Z
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Vintage International
Series Volume:
v. 10, no. 1
Publication Date:
September 1992
Grade Level:
8.00x5.20x.90 in. .82 lbs.

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Related Subjects

Featured Titles » Award Winners
Featured Titles » National Book Award Winners
Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Romance » General

Mating Used Trade Paper
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$5.95 In Stock
Product details 496 pages Vintage Books USA - English 9780679737094 Reviews:
"Review A Day" by , "...Rush's fiction is sharply attuned to the psychological and economic world of expatriates...people who reside for a long time, sometimes a lifetime, without planning to settle, native foreigners: there are not so many stories about their lives. There are certainly none better than Rush's work." (read the entire National Book Critics Circle review)
"Review" by , "A complex and moving love story...breathtaking in its cunningly intertwined intellectual sweep and brio."
"Review" by , "[G]abby and relentlessly high-minded lovers turn Rush's first novel into a meeting of true minds with too long an agenda....In essence a love story, an unusual and credible one...but the nonstop clever talk eventually provokes irritation rather than sympathy. A flawed novel of too many ideas, many good, but collectively too much."
"Review" by , "Mr. Rush has created one of the wiser and wittier fictive meditations on the subject of mating. His novel illuminates why we yield when we don't have to. It seeks to illuminate the nature of true intimacy — how to define it, how to know when one has achieved it. And few books evoke so eloquently that state of love at its apogee."
"Review" by , "A dazzling original....In the pyrotechnics that erupt on the page, in its fecundity of ideas, Mating has much in common with the writing of Garcia Marquez, Vargas Llosa, and John Fowles....This is undeniably a big book....Rush has taken on a lot — and made it work."
"Review" by , "If anything, the biggest problem with Mating is that its two central figures are too smart for their own good. They're so politically correct and intellectually rendered that you might find them to be more sets of ideas than characters. But it is precisely there...that Mating comes into its own as a scathing commentary on the many 'isms' it traffics in — feminism most of all."
"Review" by , "[A] marvelous novel, one in which a resolutely independent voice claims new imaginative territory....Even in its narrative excess, its cheerful willingness to say too much in order to say as much as one can, the voice of Rush's narrator is immediate, instructive, and endearing in ways that may encourage comparison to Walt Whitman's or Huck Finn's. In his first novel Norman Rush commanded my attention as few other contemporary writers do."
"Review" by , "Though there is plenty of action and interaction among the characters, this is largely a novel of ideas and anthropological information. The humor is at a sophisticated level, as is the vocabulary."
"Synopsis" by , US
"Synopsis" by , Set in the African republic of Botswana--the locale of his acclaimed short story collection, Whites--Norman Rush's novel simultaneously explores the highest of intellectual high grounds and the most tortuous ravines of the erotic. tackles the geopolitics of poverty and the mystery of what men and women really want.
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