Esther’s Space- journey through my life

October 28, 2007

Galatea 2.2…..3

Filed under: p()5t^^()d3,~]\[ — estherspace @ 1:41 pm

Since the book has so much to work with, I thought it might be useful to attempt to pull some threads through (at least) this book, and perhaps with other things we have read as well.

In my first Galatea 2.2 post, I was interested in drawing connections between the neural network of Powers’ machine and the neural network of our brains, particularly in relation to how we read books. In saying such, I intended to illustrate how the author, Richard Powers, was illustrating the ‘sci-fi’ concepts he writes about in the book using the reader’s reaction to the novel. Ex.: every piece of information he gives us about a character causes us to ‘flip’ our mental switches and we come up with an idea of that character. However, as he gives us more information, we must cross-check those bits with the character info we have already been given, not to mention the stereotypes that we have associated the characters with.

Here, I want to look at how the character (and author?) Richard Powers is using the connections he discusses in the machines he works with to illustrate his own development and series of ‘flips’ and crosschecks that occur in his attempts to define or understand himself.

Proof positive– 

  • “With each new boost to the number of connections, Lentz had to improve F’s ability to discard as it generalized.  Intelligence meant the systematic eradication of information.” (156)

compared to:

  •  “Writing this book meant telling him I finally understood.  Even when I didn’t.  Even when I wouldn’t, until long after the last page was done.” (p161)

Dig in–

These quotes seem to be paradoxical.  I think that ‘paradox’ is the best way to describe the relationship between the self Powers perceives himself to be and the self that he thinks he would like to be (cue Fight Club).

Powers is stuck in a habit that loves and respects literature, it’s composition, it’s enjoyment, and it’s enduring legacy.  Why else would there be the dream of being able to give up everything just to spend the day reading, or the reading to C. that kept them together and, to a large degree, acted as the basis of their relationship.

The problem that Powers (author and character-author) is now running into is the futility of that nostalgic yearning for the good old days of poetry readings, etc., which he sees as largely outmoded by the invention of the internet, which puts people into imaginary contact with each other at any time of the day, eliminating the need to self-entertain by reading.  This is why he feels such pity for the silly, misled graduate students that have made the terrible choice of dedicating their lives to books, which would never get them anywhere.

Part of the lead-up to this ennui is attributed to theorists, who have convinced the world that literature signifies nothing beyond itself.  However despite his intellectual adherence to such ideas, Powers finds  that writing fiction is the only way that he can arrive at some truths, such as the many about C. and her family, or about his life with C.

There can be nothing new written, as evidenced by the train heading south.  Since Powers is a career novelist, this provides a very scary outlook for his career.  So, in order to find his niche in life, now that his whole life has meant nothing, he goes back to his preliminary training as a scientist.  In assisting Lentz, he is hoping to discover his own (new) place in the (new) world, and see if there is any value that can be found in his previous 35 years through examining how literature and machine come together.

Other things I wonder about–

-Why Powers gets to name Helen

-“Life became an interruption of my description of it” (p215), but on p 211 he describes reading as an escapist thing

– character/influence of Taylor

– p 185- the unexamined norm (reminded me of Nikki Lee)

– p 172- “all learning was remembering”

-fiction as a means of communicating truth


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