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The Mind-Body Problem (Contemporary American Fiction) Paperback – March 1, 1993

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Goldstein's The Dark Sister is a cleverly constructed, imaginative tale that centers on a tormented feminist novelist whose solitude is interrupted only by phone calls from her silly but dangerous sister; March will also bring Penguin's reissue of Goldstein's penetrating coming-of-age novel The Mind-Body Problem , about an orthodox Jewish woman's sexual awakening at college.
Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.


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Product Details

  • Series: Contemporary American Fiction
  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (March 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140172459
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140172454
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.7 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #444,893 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Rebecca Goldstein is a MacArthur Fellow, a professor of philosophy, and the author of five novels and a collection of short stories. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

66 of 68 people found the following review helpful By kattepusen on September 20, 2004
Format: Paperback
How original! I loved this book with its vibrant language and intelligent, yet humorous, observations of human nature, science, religion, academia, love/lust etc...The main character, Renee Feuer - a beautiful philosophy graduate student drop-out and wife of a "certified" mathematical genius , is so elegantly presented with her conflicting self-perceptions, her existential struggles, her longing for roots and cultured heritage, and, of course, her battles with love versus lust. Tackles some heavy philosophical material without becoming lecturous and the descriptions of "super-math" seems believable. Also interesting in its dealings with traditional Jewish faith in relationship with the rational sciences and even philosophy - I learned more about Jewish customs from this book than from any religion class I ever took. The relationships between Renee and her husband, best friends, lovers and familiy members are richly presented in all their details and colorful descriptions. The end is lovely - except for the fact that the story is over...
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55 of 58 people found the following review helpful By S. Park on August 8, 2003
Format: Paperback
On a hot summer day over a ramen lunch I've been talking with a friend about Barry Mazur's latest monograph, "Imagining Numbers (2002)," a non-fiction book about mathematical imagination. The talk naturally evolved to as of why there is so little fictional work that writes about what it is like to be doing mathematics. My friend referred me to this book, adding that, though not written by a mathematician, it depicts behaviors of characters working in the field quite nicely.
"The Mind-Body Problem" is in fact written by a philosopher, and really is not about mathematics. It is about an intelligent young lady, Renee Feuer, who marries a world-renown mathematician, Noam Himmel, out of her insecurity: "...In short I was floundering [at Princeton as a grad student], and thus quite prepared to follow the venerably old feminine tradition of being saved by marriage. And, given the nature of my distress, no one could better play the part of my rescuing hero than the great Noam Himmel. For the man had an extravagance of what I was so agonizingly feeling the lack of: objective proof of one's own intellectual merit." Renee, born into an orthodox Jewish family in New Jersey, is self-acknowledging beautiful, and perhaps can be best characterized in her own words: "I had always thought of intelligence as power, the supreme power. Understanding is not the means of mastery, but the end itself (Spinoza)...I am only attracted to men who I believe to be more intelligent than I am. A detected mistake in logic considerably cools my desire. They can be shorter, they can be weaker, they can be poorer, they can be meaner, but they must be smarter. For the smart are the masters in my mattering region. And if you gain power over them, then through the transivity of power you too are powerful.
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34 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Suzanne Chandler at on December 30, 1998
Format: Paperback
This is one of my favorite books of all time. Our heroine Renee struggles with the great philosophical questions of Cartesian Dualism and Metaphysics in a time where "the field had made a 'linguistic turn' and I . . . had not. The questions were now all of language. Instead of wrestling with large messy questions that have occupied previous centuries of ethicists, for example, one should examine the rules that govern words like 'good' and 'ought'. My very first seminar [. . .] was on adverbs. The metaphysics of adverbs? From Reality to . . . adverbs?"
While not struggling with the drabness of Linguistics Renee flounders with her own identity. Is she bright for a pretty girl? or merely nice-looking for such a clever girl? would either quality stand alone?
To further complicate her identity questions she marries a bumbling mathematical genius (think Paul Erdos): "I'm often asked what it's like to be married to a genius. The question used to please me -- as an affirmation of my place, of my counting for something (if only through marriage) in the only world that counted for anything. But even back then [. . .] I was uncertain how to answer. "wife of genius" does not in itself define a distinct personality. The description, and my own fluid nature left me the burden of choice. And I found it hard to choose. I could never even decide how I should arrange my face when I answered. Should I radiate the faintly dazed glow of one who stands within sweating distance of the raging fires of creativity? Or should my features exhibit the sharp practicality of managing the mundane affairs of an intellectual demigod?
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A. R. Cellura on September 21, 2006
Format: Paperback
Some readers of Rebecca Goldstein's THE MIND-BODY PROBLEM will find it "a very funny novel" (NEWSWEEK) or "clever and funny" (THE NEW YORK TIMES REVIEW OF BOOKS). Perhaps. While there is a scintilla of humor in this brain-teaser of a novel, the risible may, whether it is a mother's misogyny, a husband's egomania, unrequitted love, the perseverance of ancient tribal rites, the dilemma of marriage v. career or historic atrocity, grab you and as likely make you wince. Goldstein herself, with a PhD in Philosophy from Princeton and a MacArthur "genius award", lived out the writing of this first novel in more profound terms:

"To me the process is still mysterious. I had just come through a very emotional time, having not only become a mother but having also lost my father, whom I adored. In the course of grieving for my father and glorifying my daughter, I found that the very formal, very precise questions I had been trained to analyze weren't gripping me the way they once had. Suddenly, I was asking the most 'unprofessional' sorts of questions...such as how does all this philosophy I've studied help me to deal with the brute contingencies of life?...I wanted to confront such questions in my writing, and I wanted to confront them in a way that would insert 'real life' intimately into the intellectual struggle."

THE MIND-BODY PROBLEM engagingly weaves the tortured choice out of Plato's cave, the tangled skein of Leibnitzian monadology (the novel's antagonist is a card-carrying Platonist and Fields Medal mathematician), Cartesian dualism (the novel's heroine is aptly named Renee) and Shroedinger's positivism (What, after all, is life?), into the bits and pieces of everyday perception, belied by its uncommonplace ivy-walled setting.
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