I always wonder if it’s a good idea to research the author of the book I’m reading.
When the author names his protagonist after himself…the question is even more relevant. Many authors write fragments of themselves into characters in their books. Good fiction observes some kernel of truth. You have to write what you know for there to be truth.
Galatea 2.2’s fictional Richard Powers is in many ways similar to the author Richard Powers. The real Powers like his fictional counterpart gave up a career in science to pursue the arts. He moved to the Netherlands to avoid the attention and maybe the pressure of the success of his first novel. Galatea seems like a deeply personal rumination on the fear of failing and the fear that your best, most brilliant work is behind you. Many authors must live in terror of this. Writing like most art is a constantly changing process. If you challenge yourself as all great authors must, your art changes from book to book. But what happens after you’ve written what may be your best work? What happens when everything you produce afterwards is just a shadow in compairson?
I’m struggling through Galatea 2.2. Even though the writing can be beautiful…most of it strains my patience. The writing is erudite, sometimes overly technical…I worry that by the time I finish the book, I will no longer want to read The Echo Maker.
But I trudge on. While it isn’t especially pleasurable, I find that the book sparks of new ideas and thought paths. I also have to go slow, because it’s so challenging to read. The slowness of the reading allows me to get more out of the reading material. It is a new way of reading, one that tests my fleeting patience but will ultimately make me a better reader.