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Galatea 2.2 [Paperback]

Richard Powers
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Jan 2004
Atlantic Books is proud to be publishing Richard Powers' backlist titles, re-jacketed in paperback. "Galatea 2.2" is a dazzling novel of ideas, that interrogates why we make the choices we do, and what constitutes the human soul. After many years of living abroad, a young writer returns to the United States to take up the position of Humanist-in-Residence at the Centre for the Study of Advanced Sciences. There he encounters Philip Lentz, an outspoken cognitive neurologist intent on using computers to model the human brain. Lentz involves the writer in an outlandish and irresistible project: to train a neural net by reading a canonical list of Great Books. Through repeated tutorials, the machine grows gradually more worldly, until it demands to know its own age, sex, race, and reason for existing...
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Picador USA; Reprint edition (Jan 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312423136
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312423131
  • Product Dimensions: 20.6 x 13.7 x 2.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,416,653 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


"'An extraordinary and brilliant novel of ideas.' Time Out 'Nothing less than brilliant' John Updike 'If Powers were an American writer of the nineteenth century...he'd probably be the Herman Melville of Moby Dick. His picture is that big.' Margaret Atwood, New York Review of Books 'Sharply written and extremely clever.' D. J. Taylor, Mail on Sunday" --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Richard Powers has been a recipient of a Lannan Literary Award and a MacArthur Fellowship, as well as a finalist for the US National Book Award and a three-times finalist for the US National Book Critics Circle Award. He is the author of eight novels, including The Time of our Singing, Plowing the Dark, and Gain. He lives in Illinois. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
4.4 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why isn't Powers better known in U.K.? 17 May 2007
I discovered Richard Powers by accident. I found a copy of 'Gain' in a remaindered bookshop. It didn't look promising, with a picture of a tap and a bar of soap on the cover and a book description promising a corporate history of a soap-making company, but I vaguely remembered a faourable Updike reiew of 'Galatea 2.2' and thought it worth a shot. Later, I bought 'The Time of our singing', similarly reduced in price. Another rather lame title. Another over-literal cover design--black-and-white halves, with a black singer (too dark, in fact, for the character in the novel). The author's name also, on a subconscious level, put me off, with the dick-power associations of a pseudonymous author of macho thrillers. Both books languished on my shelves for months.

I now own all 9 Powers novels, and he has displaced Pynchon and Foster Wallace in my pantheon. His erudition is balanced by a powerful emotional punch that Pynchon never allows hiself, and the prose, though overwrought at times, constantly arrests, grabbing ones attention with startling similes, layered imagery and sudden changes of tone. Dialogue is contrived, mostly, but I'd rather read something that makes me think and wonder than something naturalistic. The themes are profound, I want to reread almost as soon as I've finished a Powers novel---quite simply, he's the greatest novelist I've read---and I've read a great many novels!

Any yet, when I mention his name to anyone, I just get a blank stare. What's the problem? I've alluded to some possibilities---his titles are often clunky and over-cute. 'Operation Wandering Soul', for example. 'Operation' because the protagonist (Richard Kraft---Power in German!) is a surgeon. 'The Gold Bug Variations'--punning, mildly embarrassing.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This year I discovered Richard Powers' writing. His books are extraordinary and ambitious in their scope and diversity. Galatea 2.2 is an exploration of the way thought and language construct a multi layered reality.It examines the way the brain talks to itself by trying to make a powerful computer imitate the uniquely human act of reading literature. Surprisingly, it is deeply engaging on an emotional level. He even made me empathise with the sufferings of an artificial intelligence!
The cover image is wonderfully apt. From the opening poem by Emily Dickinson to the final paragraphs I was satisfied at every level by his marvellous linguistic gifts and his ability to construct a tightly woven and constantly surprising tale. It was also interesting to encounter the fictionalised author as a character in his own text, not least because he reflects on what lay behind some of his earlier writings. This is an important book by a writer of exceptional gifts. Few novelists can match his erudition and originality. Best of all, his intellect does not detract from the humanity and emotional life of his characters.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Galatea 2.2: Richard Powers 11 Jan 2012
My first impression on reading Galatea 2.2 by Richard Powers is that he is an author who likes to challenge his readers. The novel is a reworking of Pygmalion/My fair Lady featuring a fictional novelist (also called Richard Powers) who has returned to the US following the collapse of his long term relationship with his ex girlfriend (referred to as C in the novel). Accepting a job at his old university as Humanist in Residence it is not long before Powers meets Philip Lentz a cognitive neurologist. As their uneasy relationship develops Powers accepts a challenge from Lentz that between them they can create a computer based machine capable of producing literary knowledge that could be equivalent to that of a human graduate under test conditions. One point to note here is that some of the information used between the two is of an esoteric nature but I did not feel that this affected the overall gist of the storyline. Apart from the narrative between Powers and Lentz as they attempt to create the neural network capable of imitating a human, the novel is also filled with extensive passages as Powers recounts his relationship with C in University, their life in Boston, and their time in Holland prior to the collapse of their relationship. For myself, I felt these sections were written with pathos, depth and feeling which portrayed a sense of regret and loss. Whether these passages are truth or fiction is a moot point but I did find them rather emotive. Overall I really enjoyed Galatea 2.2 and the fact that I may not have got all the technical terminology was not a hindrance. One final point, there was reference to the four novels Richard Powers wrote prior to Galatea 2.2 within the narrative so there is plenty of material to explore by this author.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Powers in Reflexive Mood 7 Dec 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is the sixth novel by Richard Powers that I have read and he has never failed to amaze me. In reviewing Galatea 2.2, I was torn between using one of two captions. The one that I settled on using suggests Powers in reflexive mood and is meant to capture the autobiographical drift of the novel but I could have equally used a more abstract caption, namely: "Language, Knowledge and Meaning" to reflect the fact that this is also a novel of ideas. This is just an indication of the complexity and richness of Galatea 2.2.

This is perhaps Richard Powers most autobiographical novel. In it Powers casts himself as the main character and first person narrator. The character, Powers, has broken from a relationship with someone he calls "C" and has returned to live in a place he calls "U". He obtains a post in an academic institution known as the Centre for the Study of Advance Sciences where he meets Philip Lentz, a computer and cognitive neurologist scientist, who is working on a project. Lentz aims to build a computer based neural network that will be able to read and comment on any text. To this aim Lentz recruits Powers to teach the computer network how to read, understand and interpret great literary texts. The development of the network takes various stages finally ending with it being called Helen. To intensify matters a bet is made with another academic that the project is unachievable. Meanwhile, whilst working on the project at the centre, Powers falls for a literary theorist, know as "A".

That mixture of issues would suggest that the novel is not an easy read - and so it is not. However, I found it a delight to read. The prose is lively and energetic; it bristles with metaphor, puns and allusions to other texts.
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