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Saturday, February 02, 2008

The Beautiful Miscellaneous

I have to confess that I have mixed feelings about The Beautiful Miscellaneous, a novel by Dominic Smith. I was initially attracted by the premise of the book: a physicist’s son who does not live up to his father’s hopes and dreams but his his own particular gifts. As usual, I waited to read the reviews on Amazon until after I had read the book (or listened to it, in this case). And I agree with the specifics if one considers there to be a consensus among the reviewers. But I cannot agree with the overall assessment, which reflects a greater degree of enthusiasm than I felt.

Yes, it’s an interesting and well-written novel about fathers and sons, about coming of age, and about giftedness or the lack thereof. So what left me unsatisfied? Maybe I was irritated by the intrusion of so-called psychics into the world of physics and mathematics. Maybe I was bothered by the intrusiveness of synesthesia and photographic memory into what was otherwise a straight novel. While I was definitely affected by my reading of A.R. Luria’s The Mind of a Mnemonist as an undergraduate, it doesn’t make the most convincing fit in a fictional context. Or maybe I’m just being unfair and wanted the book to be something it wasn’t. In any case, I certainly don’t feel that listening to The Beautiful Miscellaneous was a waste of time, so give it a read — or a listen.



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