Particle physics, false vacuum bubbles, an alternate universe--this is the stuff of Jonathan Lethem's novel As She Climbed Across the Table
. The tale echoes Alice in Wonderland
in its mad tumble through a rearranged reality. Narrator Phillip Engstrand is a university professor who has made a career out of studying academic environments. Engstrand is in love with Alice Coombs, a particle physicist engaged in a bold attempt to replicate the origins of the universe. The result of the experiment is Lack, a very selective black hole that sucks some things into its void--a cat, a pair of socks, a strawberry--and rejects others, namely, a love-struck Alice. As Alice's unrequited obsession with Lack grows, Phillip becomes so desperate to save his beloved from this empty rival that he risks a journey down the metaphysical rabbit hole.
Here the language of physics becomes the language of love: describing physics' "observer problem," Alice says, "Some people think the observer's consciousness determines the spin or even the existence of the electron." Later, as he stumbles to explain Alice's importance to him, Phillip tells her, "I'm not sure I really exist except under your observation." In this memorable little book, Lethem explores the cosmic possibilities of love.
From Library Journal
In this witty but telling new work from the author of The Wall of Sky, the Wall of Eye (LJ 8/96), our hapless narrator has completed his dissertation on "Theory as Neurosis in the Professional Scientist" and landed a job at the University of North California at Beauchamp (pronouced beach 'em), where he studies academic envirorments, producing "strong but irrelevant work" and falling for physics professor Alice. But Alice is too caught up in Professor Soft's notorious experiment with a vacuum intelligence called Lack to pay her lover much heed, and soon Lack is the real love of her life. This is not your typically insular campus comedy; Lethem has something bigger in mind, and he succeeds admirably in skewering our pretensions, technological or not, in language that gently mocks the way we hide behind jargon. An ironical book that is, ironically, quite poignant; for public and academic libraries.?Barbara Hoffert, "Library Journal"
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.