On Easter day, 1939, at Marian Anderson’s epochal concert on the Washington Mall, David Strom, a German Jewish émigré scientist, meets Delia Daley, a young Philadelphia Negro studying to be a singer. Their mutual love of music draws them together, and — against all odds and better judgment — they marry. They vow to raise their children beyond time, beyond identity, steeped only in song. Jonah, Joseph, and Ruth grow up, however, during the Civil Rights era, coming of age in the violent 1960s, and living out adulthood in the racially retrenched late century. Jonah, the eldest, “whose voice could make heads of state repent,” follows a life in his parents’ beloved classical music. Ruth, the youngest, devotes herself to community activism and repudiates the white culture her brother represents. Joseph, the middle child and the narrator of this generation-bridging tale, struggles to find himself and remain connected to them both.
In a digital laboratory on the shores of Puget Sound, a band of virtual reality researchers race to complete the Cavern, an empty white room that can become a jungle, a painting, or a vast Byzantine cathedral. In a war-torn Mediterranean city, an American is held hostage, chained to a radiator in another empty white room. What can possibly join two such remote places? Only the shared imagination, a room that these people unwittingly build in common, where they are all about to meet, where the dual frames of this inventive novel to coalesce.
Adie Klarpol, a skilled but disillusioned artist, comes back to life, revived by the thrill of working with the Cavern's cutting-edge technology. Against the collapse of Cold War empires and the fall of the Berlin Wall, she retreats dangerously into the cyber-realities she has been hired to create. As her ex-husband lies dying and the outbreak of computerized war fills her with a sense of guilty complicity, Adie is thrown deeper into building a place of beauty and unknown power, were she might fend off the incursions of the real world gone wrong.
On the other side of the globe, Taimur Martin, an English teacher retreating from a failed love affair, is picked up off the streets in Beirut by Islamic fundamentalists and held in solitary captivity. Without distraction or hope of release, he must keep himself whole by the force of his memory alone. Each infinite, empty day moves him closer to insanity, and only the surprising arrival of sanctuary sustains him for the shattering conclusion. is fiction that explores the imagination's power to both destroy and save.
A national bestseller, voted by Time as the #1 novel of 1991, selected as one of the "Best Books of 1991" by Publishers Weekly, and nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award-a magnificent story that probes the meaning of love, science, music, and art, by the brilliant author of Three Farmers on Their Way to a Dance.
Winner of the 2006 National Book Award.
On a winter night on a remote Nebraska road, twenty-seven-year-old Mark Schluter has a near-fatal car accident. His older sister, Karin, returns reluctantly to their hometown to nurse Mark back from a traumatic head injury. But when Mark emerges from a coma, he believes that this woman-who looks, acts, and sounds just like his sister-is really an imposter. When Karin contacts the famous cognitive neurologist Gerald Weber for help, he diagnoses Mark as having Capgras syndrome. The mysterious nature of the disease, combined with the strange circumstances surrounding Mark's accident, threatens to change all of their lives beyond recognition. In Richard Powers proves himself to be one of our boldest and most entertaining novelists.
After four novels and several years living abroad, the fictional protagonist of —Richard Powers — returns to the United States as Humanist-in-Residence at the enormous Center for the Study of Advanced Sciences. There he runs afoul of Philip Lentz, an outspoken cognitive neurologist intent upon modeling the human brain by means of computer-based neural networks. Lentz involves Powers in an outlandish and irresistible project: to train a neural net on a canonical list of Great Books. Through repeated tutorials, the device grows gradually more worldly, until it demands to know its own name, sex, race, and reason for exisiting.
When Chicagoan Russell Stone finds himself teaching a Creative Nonfiction class, he encounters a young Algerian woman with a disturbingly luminous presence. Thassadit Amzwar's blissful exuberance both entrances and puzzles the melancholic Russell. How can this refugee from perpetual terror be so happy? Won't someone so open and alive come to serious harm? Wondering how to protect her, Russell researches her war-torn country and skims through popular happiness manuals. Might her condition be hyperthymia? Hypomania? Russell's amateur inquiries lead him to college counselor Candace Weld, who also falls under Thassa's spell. Dubbed Miss Generosity by her classmates, Thassa's joyful personality comes to the attention of the notorious geneticist and advocate for genomic enhancement, Thomas Kurton, whose research leads him to announce the genotype for happiness.
Russell and Candace, now lovers, fail to protect Thassa from the growing media circus. Thassa's congenital optimism is soon severely tested. Devoured by the public as a living prophecy, her genetic secret will transform both Russell and Kurton, as well as the country at large.
What will happen to life when science identifies the genetic basis of happiness? Who will own the patent? Do we dare revise our own temperaments? Funny, fast, and finally magical, Generosity celebrates both science and the freed imagination. In his most exuberant book yet, Richard Powers asks us to consider the big questions facing humankind as we begin to rewrite our own existence.