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Mating: A Novel Paperback – International Edition, September 1, 1992


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (September 1, 1992)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 067973709X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679737094
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (102 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #154,097 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Had Jane Austen been in the Peace Corps in Africa in the 1980s, Mating is the book she might have written. Set in Botswana in the days before the end of apartheid, Norman Rush's novel is, essentially, a comedy of manners played out in Austen's approved milieu: a country village. Granted, the village in question, Tsau, is a utopian society created by the great American anthropologist Nelson Denoon, and run largely by and for disenfranchised and abused African women. Still, the issue that interests Rush (and the one that fueled Austen's novels) is the age-old question of who mates with whom, and why? The unnamed narrator is a 32-year-old postgraduate student in anthropology whose dissertation has just gone south on her. Drifting around the edges of the expatriate community in Gaborone, the capital of Botswana, she first meets Denoon:
He was smiling at Kgosetlemang--the event was to be considered over with, clearly--and I could tell that his gingivae were as good as mine; which is saying a lot. I attend to my gums. People in the bush don't always attend to their oral hygiene, not to mention other niceties. There was no sign of that here. I of course am fanatical about my gums because my idea of what the movie I Wake Up Screaming is about is a woman who has to keep dating to find her soulmate and she's had to get dentures. I have very long-range anxieties.
Entranced by this potential soulmate, our heroine strikes out into the Kalahari Desert with a couple of donkeys and follows him to his utopia where sexual attraction, regional politics, and social experimentation make for very strange bedfellows, indeed.

Mating is a fiercely intelligent, hugely ambitious novel that takes on feminism, socialism, political corruption, foreign-sponsored rural development projects, and, yes, male-female relations in ways that are simultaneously hilarious and disturbing. Certainly Rush's language is a big part of what makes the novel work: the narrator's combination of elevated vocabulary and wacky non sequiturs is inspired. When, for example, Denoon explains to her that most of the women in Tsau are celibate and therefore so is he, she reflects that "of course the spiritus rector of a female community would need to be a sexual solitary, at least during the foundational period." She then wonders if "this situation was the analog of western series on television where the female watchership shrank to nothing when the producers let the marshal get married." Mating is remarkable for its wit, its acuity, and its ability to satirize without demeaning; it's also a heck of an entertaining story. Jane Austen would have been proud. --Alix Wilber

From Publishers Weekly

Readers of this National Book Award-winning novel, a BOMC alternate in cloth, will be captivated by Rush's narrator, a self-absorbed feminist anthropologist who pursues a famous social scientist in the Kalahari desert. Author tour.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

I read every sentence and laughed out loud many times.
"cardarch"
I find the fact that this novel was highly received by the New York Times and other literary critics to be very disturbing.
William G. Cantrell
The characters are not interesting and the plot develops way too slowly.
Ellen Frick

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

109 of 122 people found the following review helpful By Matthew Cheney on December 28, 2000
Format: Paperback
I took forever deciding whether I should read Mating, whether I wanted to commit my time to such a long and apparently difficult book, whether it would be worth it in the end. I thought about buying it a number of times, but couldn't get up the courage -- what if it just gathered dust on a shelf? I borrowed a copy from the library, finally, and promised myself that if I hated it (as a number of my friends had) I would abandon it quickly.
Now Mating is one of the few books I would want to have with me on a desert island. I can easily, happily say it was one of the great reading experiences of my life so far. But it's also a book that seems tailor-made to my sensibilities, as if somebody asked me, "What would you like a big novel to contain?" and then set out to write it.
There's a compelling narrative voice. There's tremendous erudition, so I felt like I learned something about the world on every page. There's a careful attention to language, and yet the language is free and full to bursting. There's all sorts of talk about politics, the history of leftist political movements (particularly anarcho-syndicalism, my own favorite), and utopia. There's a love story, but it's written about without mushy romantic spewings. There's an exotic locale. I'm a happy reader!
But you won't like this book if you're looking for a standard storyline and if you don't have patience for intellectual dialogues scattered throughout the action and if you want clean and unambiguous answers to everything. You also won't like it if you demand that first person narrators be always appealing. I found the narrator often annoying, but in the end was quite glad to have known her.
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38 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Rick Hunter on February 28, 1999
Format: Paperback
Although it won the 1991 National Book Award and was recipient of many glowing reviews, Norman Rush's novel Mating left me scratching my head and wondering, "what am I missing?" Written in the first person, Rush's novel tells of the somewhat predatory courtship between a single anthropologist woman and Nelson, the charismatic founder of a seemingly utopian community for African woman desert Botswana. The writing of this novel is consistently literate and intelligent; I found myself regularly turning to the dictionary (or wishing the dictionary was nearby) as the erudition of Rush's narrator poured forth. Nonetheless, the book as a whole, although containing many fine parts and much excellent writing, did not hold my interest. I think, in essence, that, while well-drawn and convincing characters, the two lovers did not appeal to me. I simply did not like them, and did not enjoy their company. Given the favorable press and awards this novel has received, however, many readers must love this book . I hope other readers have a more favorable reaction.
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26 of 31 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 12, 1999
Format: Paperback
I understand people's irritation with certain passages in this book--there's no doubt that some of it is indulgent, even bloated--but I'm baffled by their complete inability to find the accompanying humor. Not to mention how they conflate the main character with the author. It's the character who is snobbish, judgmental, overly self-aware, difficult--and also funny! This book is a delight for the way it captures the very strange turnings of the mind. Abandon hope all ye who enter here for adventure! The action is minimal, although the author does wonderfully recreate the political and social milieu of Botswana. It's really a book about love and manners, a comedy about the absurd lengths to which we go to feed our obsessions with other people. Many critics have compared Mating to the work of Jane Austen. Norman Rush does indeed relentlessly understand, as did Jane Austen, the madness and delight of human relationships--and he dissects it for 500 pages. Now you know what you are truly getting for your money. Enjoy!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 26, 1997
Format: Paperback
This is a difficult book that will send you scrambling for the dictionary more than once. It will also test your intellectual self-confidence, since much of the book unfolds in the form of extended conversations between our protagonists about art, history, literature -- each so erudite one wonders whether Mr. Rush had to research them all before he wrote them. That said, I think for people interested in what it means to love someone's mind, and in how intellectuals can lose their moorings in affairs of the heart -- this a great book, though not for people who want an easy read.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By David Brittan on August 11, 1998
Format: Paperback
In contrast to Whites -- Rush's collection of interwoven and beautifully paced stories about life in Botswana -- Mating is an uncontrolled sprawl. But the book's lack of discipline is an outgrowth of the narrator's psyche. Deeply analytical, she subjects her own and everybody else's behavior to microscopic scrutiny, then writes down her observations with a compulsiveness that borders on hypergraphia. It seems less likely that her anthropology training has made her this way than the reverse: it is her overdeveloped perceptual and recording faculties that have steered her toward anthropology.
The narrator is not much of a storyteller. She doesn't seem to think in terms of dramatic tension -- cliffhangers, resolutions, punch lines, and all that. But she gradually builds up a vivid self-portrait, as well as a compelling account of her love affair with the equally complex character of Nelson Denoon. Her observations about the social dynamics of Tsau -- Denoon's not quite u! topian experimental village -- completely took me in.
In the course of the book, the narrator becomes a less and less reliable witness. As her partner's spiritual questing takes him into Zenlike realms that she herself finds unapproachable, it is left to the reader to decide whether Denoon is becoming genuinely holy or, as the narrator believes, going crazy. "Consciousness is bliss," Denoon intones. How crazy is that?
The wonder of Mating is that Rush has created a narrator who is so sympathetic, so intact and credible, that one is tempted to attribute the novel's strengths and weaknesses to this central character rather than to the author. She earned her American Book Award. So did Rush.
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