In 1980, eccentric millionaire Nobel prize winner, Robert Graham, established the Nobel Prize sperm bank in hopes of 'saving' mankind by spawning a generation of 'superkids'.
What started out for me as a quirky idea (and therefore quirky read) fast became incredibly sinister. Not only were Graham's ethics dodgy, also his attitudes towards race, lesbians and (god forbid!!) single mothers. Even happily married women had to score highly on IQ tests to qualify for the sperm.
'The Semen Detective' is what David Plotz laughingly describes himself as he goes in search of anyone who worked or donated to the bank, or of course any of the superkids themselves.
What follows is a very readable, humane, funny and highly bizarre account of what happened next.
The book covers the background to the clinic, Robert Graham's 'vision' of the future and his fawning attempts to seduce donors (some actually say it was like being on a date, having Graham try and tempt them up to his hotel room to fill a paper cup!!),but also the stories of the mothers and children.
Some of the children meet their sperm donor fathers, and this is dealt with really well. The question of whether we are a product or nature or nurture is placed right at the forefront.
Well written, funny and very strange. Highly recommended.
David Plotz has written a very thought provoking book about a subject that most people dont spend much time thinking about. He has done so with eloquence and excellent research. I have already become an avid reader of the online publication for which he works. Any negative comments I may have to do with this book are so outweighed by the positive that it is not even worth noting them down. I congratulate Mr. Plotz on an excellent first book.
This is a very well-written, engrossing and perceptive account of an attempt to improve the genetic inheritance of the human race, by offering women the chance to become impregnated by sperm from Nobel-prize winning donors. In fact, none of the children born as a result of this half-baked, and mildly sinister ambition were the offspring of Nobel laureates. And, far from producing a crop of geniuses, most of these children seem to have ended up as pretty average, and, more or less, normal kids. In that sense, the scheme was a failure - and this book draws out the naivety and hubris of those who thought they could create a new dawn for mankind. However, it could also be argued that this enterprise has had long-term impact on the commercial marketing of donor sperm - in the USA, and elsewhere. It seems likely that such influence is likely to continue in the future. This book casts new light on the circumstances in which the market in sperm developed in the USA. It raises some fundamental questions - but the author is never glib, or moralistic in dealing with both practical and ethical issues. Strongly recommended.