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Generosity Hardcover – 1 Jan 2010

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Books; UK First Edition; 1st printing. edition (1 Jan. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848871252
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848871250
  • Product Dimensions: 16.4 x 2.9 x 23.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 954,013 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Powers is one of the best writers working now, and Generosity is full of agile sentences and odd characters. It features a young woman who is always simply happy; this strikes all the other characters as being so unusual that she soon comes under the scrutiny of scientists and the media. --Audrey Niffenegger, Guardian

Compulsive... Powers persists in an heroic attempt to be that mythical being, a modern Renaissance man, as at home in the language of science as in the laboratories of literature...[Generosity is] a meditation on the human condition. --Tim Adams, Observer

[Powers'] writing is smart, tender and wrenchingly anxious about the approaching era... Generosity is a bracingly intelligent fable about the choices that face us. --Herald

Powers is not afraid or unambitious when it comes to choosing his subject matter... Frequently insightful, provocative and witty. --Herald

Powers, whose previous novel, The Echo Maker won the National Book Award, has always been adept at exploring the problematic frontiers of contemporary science. Here, his acuity and satire are as sharp as ever, allowing him to deconstruct brilliantly the commercially charged world of genome mapping, where Brahmins are well on the way to patenting and controlling the stuff of our being... What really makes Generosity tick, however, are its characters, who are as multifaceted and alive as any Powers has ever created --Sunday Times

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.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By The Outsider on 14 Sept. 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Many reviewers are taken with the topicality of Power's books - his interest in science and music, his command of detail, his obvious research and intellect, his clever writing. My belief is that Powers is a master of trying to unravel human nature and that his novels are his canvas for this.

The story of Generosity is this - a nerdy writer takes a college class in creative non-fiction and meets two unusual women. His student, an Algerian refugee seems afflicted by permanent happiness despite her terrible personal story. He brings this up with a student psychology counsellor, Candace, and the pair decide to explore whether she is 'suffering' from a medical condition. They turn to a famous Ventnor type to test her and the ensuing action turns her life upside down and miserable.

In all this, Powers demonstrates his prowess at exploring what is natural in human beings. The writer stands for the arts and human nature, Candace for reason and science - and they fall in love. It is obvious role reversal. Thomas Kurton (the Ventnor character) is pure masculine science - let's improve on mother nature - and the female science reporter who breaks the story is conflicted and changes sides from science to nature in the course of the plot. None of this feels contrived.

At the heart of the drama is the lovely Thassa - the ultimate woman - a natural uniter, a charismatic lover of life who seems unstoppable until her encounter with science almost destroys her. She is not a real person, you think while reading, yet she sets off this amazing tale and keeps you involved.

The Echo Makers is one of the finest novels I've read, and Generosity, though slightly behind it, contains enough stunning writing and intelligence to make me recommend the book warmly.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Mary Whipple HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWER on 10 Oct. 2009
Format: Hardcover
(4.5 stars) Once again, Richard Powers has reinvigorated the whole concept of the "novel of ideas,' writing yet another intellectual novel, based on neuroscience but defying facile categorization into genres. In some respects GENEROSITY is a social satire, and in others, it verges on science-fiction, but it also incorporates elements of metafiction, and its intellectual focus keeps the reader on his/her toes as Powers develops and expands themes and plot lines about the human genome that are both fascinating and original.

Russell Stone, a dweebish "nice guy," is teaching a course at Chicago's Mesquakie College of Art in "creative non-fiction," a genre formerly known as the "personal essay." His class consists of the usual assortment of art students of various ages with various goals, and, as they read their journal entries on successive class meetings, they soon become close. Thassadit Amzwar, a twenty-three-year-old Algerian Berber from Kabylie, however, quickly becomes the focus of the group for her perennial good humor and upbeat attitudes. Thassa has survived the ongoing Algerian Civil War, which began in 1991, supported by Islamist fundamentalists. An entry in her journal includes the discovery of her father's executed body after he wrote a letter to the newspaper challenging governmental policies, and it shocks the class, but it is her unconquerable good humor which leaves the longest-lasting impression on her classmates.

In Boston, Thomas Kurton, a pure scientist, is investigating the chemistry that underlies emotions and the genome which may be responsible for human happiness. Kurton believes that "aging is not just a disease; it's the mother of all maladies. And humankind may finally have a shot at curing it.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Herman Norford on 27 Dec. 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In Generosity, Richard Powers takes us back into the world of genetic science so wonderfully explored in his novel, The Gold Bug Variations. Generosity is Powers tenth novel in which he continues his grand scheme of bringing together the arts and the sciences. But this should not suggest that the novels are alike. Take the last three novels, The Time of our Singing among other things saw Powers exploring race, music and time, The Echo Maker combines a look at the impact of Capgras Syndrome with concerns about the environment and in Generosity genetic engineering in the form of a search for a happiness gene is combined with a dazzling exploration of the scope and nature of writing both fiction and non-fiction.

Generosity is a novel that is thin on plot and great characterization. These are not its purpose. So with tongue in cheek a brief synopsis of the story is as follows. Mr Powers runs two parallel stories together before dove tailing them. A failed writer, Russell Stone, turns to teaching "creative non-fiction" at an art college, where he meets the central character, Thassadit Amzwar an Algerian who has a propensity to display happiness. Thassadit soon becomes the centre of attraction for just about everyone who wants to gain the capacity for being happy most of the times. But more crucially geneticist, Thomas Kurton, who happens to be doing research into gene therapy, learns about Thassadit's condition and of course pursues her in a quest to ascertain if her happiness is derived from her genes. Fleshing out the story are two couples Russell Stone and Candace Weld, and Thomas Kurton and Tonia Schiff. Stuck among them causing happiness or more ironically angst is Thassadit. The time period is contemporary and the setting is mainly Chicago but sometimes moving to Tunisia.
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