by Rebecca Goldstein ‧ RELEASE DATE: Sept. 26, 1983
Renee Feuer is a sharp young philosophy grad-student, raised an Orthodox Jew but very much fallen away. . . when she meets famous Noam Himmel, who has come to the Institute for Advanced Studies to bestow it with his genius. A mathematician of world renown, Noam developed a new category of numbers when only age twelve; as an adult person, he's abstracted, enthusiastic, cuddly. And after they marry, Renee is thrilled to discover, at various European conferences, what she's already intuited: ""I had married intellectual royalty."" But it doesn't bring all that much satisfaction; after all, compared to Noam, Renee considers herself dull--and she waits for him inevitably to discover it too. Furthermore, as if in escape from the comparative puniness of her mind, she turns to her body: constantly thinking about sex (which Noam can take or leave), about children at times, finally falling into a series of indiscreet affairs with other Princeton thinkers. Will Noam catch on? Apparently not. While he searches for truths beyond the trivial, he seems not to notice that his wife is rushing back and forth over ""the will to matter"" as a corporeal person. . . as a woman. First-novelist Goldstein, a Barnard philosophy professor, is utterly comfortable in these empyrean climes--with fine observations of Princeton life, a shrewd map of intellectual intolerance; and she bravely does not flinch from writing seriously about her characters' many complex cerebral involvements (slightly puckered, densely demanding summaries of problems in abstract thought). Yet only at the end--Noam's inattention is revealed as grief over having lost his powers of creative mathematics at 40--does the book begin to grab a reader's feelings. Until then, it's all very bouncy and high-minded but also a little bit brittle and trivial: intellectually classy entertainment for academia-watchers or part-time philosophers, with lots of brain and just a flicker (too little, too late) of heart.
Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1983
Page Count: -
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1983
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