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Habitus: A Novel Hardcover – February 1, 2000


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 415 pages
  • Publisher: St Martins Pr; 1st U.S. ed edition (February 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312245459
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312245450
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.5 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,757,461 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In 1973, affection-starved Jennifer Several takes two lovers: Judd Axelrod, shy prepubescent son of a Hollywood starlet, and Joel Kluge, an ex-Hasidic math genius. As Judd becomes a supernaturally gifted gambler, escaping the bungling of his psychoanalyst, Joel's search for meaning leads him to create a computerized golem, to repair the world of evil. Meanwhile, in Jennifer's womb a genetic anomaly takes root--a child bearing the DNA of its two fathers. Above them all circles the serenely conscious figure of Laika, first dog in space, feeding on the outpourings of the digital age.

Habitus teems with ideas. As if in mimicry of the global village, we spark from one location to another, as the author boldly captures their essence: L.A., Cambridge, Stratford-upon-Avon, even Dachau and Sobibor. The prose leads stimulating forays into a wealth of disparate subjects, deftly illuminating their connections. There's a smattering of kabbalah, some advanced mathematics, even a tract on gambling. Unfortunately, this often occurs at the expense of story. Complex scientific segues frequently force us to disengage and switch drives from "audience" to "student," just as we begin to care about Flint's characters. A book with humor and heart, certainly, but one slightly too concerned about proving its cleverness. --Matthew Baylis, Amazon.co.uk

From Publishers Weekly

British writer Flint's first book is an allegorical meditation on the nexus of flesh and machine, an eclectic essay on math, physics and Kabbalah--and only secondarily a novel. It abounds with gorgeous panoramic prose, yet totters irritatingly through self-conscious metaphors in service to the author's grand theme. As the forgotten space dog Laika orbits the earth, peeking in and out of the text, aware of humanity via electronic transmissions, a grotesque drama unfolds in England. Thirteen-year-old Jennifer, conceived when her brain-dead mother was raped in a mental hospital, and now living with her mother's husband in Stratford-upon-Avon, discovers she has a precocious interest in sex. Separately impregnated by Joel, a savant mathematician and Kabbalist Hasidic Jew from Brooklyn, and 10-year-old Judd, child of an English actress and an African-American computer salesman, Jennifer carries Emma, a child with two fathers, for two years. When the baby is born with a double heart and various other abnormalities, she is taken away from Jennifer. Though isolated in a hospital ward, Emma, like Laika, is psychically connected to the outer world, and she manipulates her three parents from afar, years later engineering her rescue by Jennifer. Meanwhile, Joel searches the world for the mystic underpinnings of apparent chaos, believing that if he collects enough data he can explain the Holocaust, and Judd nurtures a talent for gambling. Though masses of data on cybernetics, chaos theory and cellular biology flesh out Flint's intriguing if arcane theories, they often disrupt the narrative. There are too many grand epiphanies for the story to bear with credibility; the narrative hemorrhages at last into an apocalyptic finale, which is too easy, too broad a cap for such an elaborate edifice. Nonetheless, this highly unusual novel has a certain undeniable sweep and a muffled aura of significance.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Paul Goodwin on August 2, 2000
Format: Hardcover
James Flints depth of knowledge astounded me in his debut, which upon reading gave me a thorough insight into many different areas of modern humanity, that previously I would have shrugged off as too complicated for my humble brain to comprehend(eg chaos theories,astounding mathematical problems and things which will leave your head in a state of thorough confusion for weeks afterwards). Althougth the tempo is slow to begin with, the pieces of the book slowly start to fall into place but the events in the book are widely open to differing personal interpretation which leaves the reader confused on what the hell the author is trying to get at. This odd factor to the book causes it to rise in my opinions as it fits in nicely with the direction the book as it has information coming from so many differing fields thus bringing no monotony to its content. Flint's fresh angle on modern day society gives the reader a rare yet fresh perspective to consider as it is so varied but the extra thought that is required to comprehend the book might prove to be too much for those not used to this more informative style of book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Iris_Neva on July 15, 2004
Format: Hardcover
If you don't mind sifting through all the tedious and pretentious biology and science too much, the little gold nugget passages of wordy ingenuity you will stumble across at one or the other point will make it worth it.
What I have to reproach is that, while his science might be flashily correct, the guy knows nothing about shop-lifting or drugs. The ways he depicts department store thieving and amphetamine consumption are the typically quasi realistic ones of someone who has never done any of it!
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6 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Charles Nagy on August 8, 2001
Format: Paperback
'This book should not be tossed aside lightly, it should be thrown with great force', and there were many times when I felt like doing just that. I don't normally struggle to finish a book, but I did with this one. Apart from the haphazard, disjointed plot, lurching from scene to scene for no apparent reason, the subject matter didn't really appeal, littered as it was with tawdry sexual couplings (and singlings - there was a fair bit of wanking going on, by both the characters and the author). The mystery to me was how Habitus got such uniformly good reviews from likes of New Scientist and Time Out. New Scientist said it was a 'witty often erudite stylish commentary on our pre-millenial condition'. It barely raised a smile with me, and the commentary was more on the state of the author's pot addled grey matter than the human condition, pre-millenial or otherwise.
There were some genuinely good passages from time to time, but all too often we would be zooming off somewhere else to ponder some other bodily function, in dispassionate scientific terms of course, but tasteless nonetheless. This was the problem, the science was generally accurate, but seemed to be designed not to inform or educate, but to show off. All in all, a disappointing read which could only be measurably improved by reducing the constituent pages to their original chemical elements, preferably at a temperature of a thousand degrees Centigrade.
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Format: Hardcover
I loved Habitus, for his way of intermixing personnal destinies with the great technological discoveries of the century (satellites, computers, genetics). Beautifully written (it could be american), Habitus is the book to read if you like Pynchon, Gaddis and Richard Powers. Such a promising fist novel is more than precious. The structure is masterly orchestrized and the characters won't leave you for a long time. And despite (or thanks to) the extraordinary architecture of the book, there is real emotion. I look forward to read Mr. Flint next novel.
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