I don’t know if any of you suffer from this affliction: reading while feminist. It makes it difficult to enjoy some novels in their entirety, because of misogynistic, homophobic, and/or racist comments or undertones that just gnaw. I’m not calling this book any of those things outright, but I will say it is very hetero, from a man’s perspective, and there might have been a questionable comment about a Taiwanese “masseuse”.
There are 3 love/sexual interests in the book for the male protagonist: a 20 year old girl who he meets through very questionable means, a possible rekindling with his ex-wife (who is about the same age as him, 36), and another woman slightly older than him (maybe 40-42?). Guess which one he chooses…I don’t want to give it away.
The main storyline is of this guy Neill working for a programming company to construct a computer that can beat the Turing test and convince through a blind texting system that the computer can be mistaken as human at least 30% of the time. The computer is based on 20+ years worth of journals written by Neill’s father who committed suicide when Neill was 19. The texting conversations become increasingly sentient sounding, but they always avoid telling the computer that it’s a computer and that Dr. Basset is dead. There is a lot of emotional things to unpack there, which was interesting…it could have been further excavated.
Alongside the work life of Neill, we also see the personal dating life of this bachelor. Rachel, the 20 year old who does turn 21 during the book (Neill doesn’t age and somehow this is supposed to soften the age gap?), is working her way to getting her GED and also roped into a cult-y sounding weird spiritual group. This is where it is particularly hetero. This group is emphatically against sex toys and in an attempt to create connection (or stay “clicked”) they have workshops where they pair male and female partners, and the man rubs the clit of the woman in some sort of more present/aware/connected fashion. Sorry if you weren’t ready to read that. I really had no idea how to preface it to warn you. [There is also a point where Neill travels back to Arkansas for research and visits an elderly woman who knew his father. She asks him if he has San Francisco values and says something about homosexuals going to hell. He is complicit in this situation because she’s old…not cool bro.]
All in all, it held my attention, but it’s not my new favorite book.
Sexuality: Documents of Contemporary Art, Edited By Amelia Jones: 170 pages read
A Working Theory of Love, By Scott Hutchins: 325 pages
Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, By Neil deGrasse Tyson: 3h, 41m equal to 244 pages (according to Amazon)
Trans*, By Jack Halberstam: 3 chapters, 80 pages
Running Tally of Pages: 819