A Working Theory of Love: A Novel and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more
Qty:1
  • List Price: $25.95
  • Save: $8.04 (31%)
FREE Shipping on orders over $35.
Only 4 left in stock (more on the way).
Ships from and sold by Amazon.com.
Gift-wrap available.
Add to Cart
Want it tomorrow, April 25? Order within and choose One-Day Shipping at checkout. Details
FREE Shipping on orders over $35.
Used: Like New | Details
Sold by PTP Flash Deals
Condition: Used: Like New
Comment: Eligible for PRIME and FREE Super Saving Shipping! Fast Amazon shipping plus a hassle free return policy ensures your satisfaction is guaranteed! Tracking number provided in your Amazon account with every order.
Add to Cart
Trade in your item
Get a $2.00
Gift Card.
Have one to sell?
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more

A Working Theory of Love Hardcover


See all 10 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price New from Used from Collectible from
Kindle
"Please retry"
Hardcover
"Please retry"
$17.91
$1.59 $0.01 $19.99

Frequently Bought Together

A Working Theory of Love + Swimming Home: A Novel + Sweet Tooth: A Novel
Price for all three: $48.65

Buy the selected items together

NO_CONTENT_IN_FEATURE

Big Spring Books
Editors' Picks in Spring Releases
Ready for some fresh reads? Browse our picks for Big Spring Books to please all kinds of readers.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Press HC, The; First Edition edition (October 2, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9781594205057
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594205057
  • ASIN: 1594205051
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.2 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (71 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #684,230 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Hutchins is an unsentimental and compassionate creator of vivid characters, a master aphorist ('Artists are always the Johnny Appleseeds of gentrification') and an expert architect of set pieces... [A] charming, warmhearted, and thought-provoking novel." —New York Times Book Review

"The field of artificial intelligence, or computer robotics, may not sound like a poignant story line for a novel, particularly one that bends thematically toward the beatings of the heart. But Scott Hutchins, in A Working Theory of Love turns this potentially sterile technological world into an emotionally moving force that helps propel the narrative as it grapples with the stuff of real life... In quick, artful strokes, the various characters in a wide cast are memorably drawn and entwined in Neill's personal saga. Even the would-be intelligent machine, "Dr. Bassett," becomes such a vivid character that questions of its mortality, not just its human dimensions, are raised... A terrific debut, an intriguing, original take on family and friendship, lust and longing, grief and forgiveness."
—Associated Press

“A wistful, funny debut.”
—People

"What makes a man? In this terrific debut novel, A Working Theory of Love, emotionally adrift divorcé Neill Bassett Jr. is trying to build the world's first sentient computer program. After inputting 20 years of his late father's diaries, he holds conversations with a pixelated personality that seems just like his dad—discussing his life, his childhood, and his current romantic woes. Throughout, Hutchins hits that sweet spot where humor and melancholy comfortably coexist."
—Entertainment Weekly

“One of the most humane (not to mention moving and hilarious) stories I've read in a long time.”
—Interview

“The realistic manner in which Hutchins depicts the not-depressed, yet not-joyful way Neill goes through (a pretty interesting) life will strike a chord with many readers. But at the end of the day, it's the slow revelation of Neill's vibrantly beating heart (despite all his efforts to stay detached!) and his romantic, leap-of-faith-taking soul that will surprise, delight, and leave your own heart buoyant and brimming by the last page.”
—Redbook

"Inventive, intelligent and sometimes hilarious... One of the pleasures here is Hutchins' terrific grasp of the zeitgeist - the intellectual energies, cultural landscapes and characters of the Bay Area... A Working History of Love revels in these big questions: Are humans more like computers than we think? Is the experience of love all chemicals and projection? Is human connection an illusion - a kind of cosmic Turing test in which it's only necessary to fool a few people some of the time? By the end of this novel, one feels empathically engaged with the plight of the machine. Our minds too 'are all 0s and 1s, the neurons either on or off. There's no center for a soul. Just pattern upon pattern upon pattern through which the rough-shaped thing we call ourselves emerges into view.'"
San Francisco Chronicle

"Ultimately, A Working Theory of Love examines, quite successfully, our semi-delusional approach to interpersonal relationships and contemplates whether the world comes down on the side of seem or be—or if it remains negotiated in the space in between."
—BOMB Magazine

"The idea of a grown man receiving closure from a supercomputer acting as his father sounds more comical than poignant, but readers will be unable to put the book down as the conversations between man and machine grow more intimate, and Neill is forced to deal with the pain of his father's suicide. Questions about the nature of humanity and love are expertly explored in this impressive debut. "
—BookPage

"A deftly managed novel about the ways we move on and the ways we don't, the stock we put in memory and language, and the incompetent ways that we strive to love each other. "
—Christian Science Monitor

"[A] must-read debut novel. [A Working Theory of Love] is in some ways is a kind of Nick Hornby-ish take on Richard Powers' computer classic, Galatea 2.2... this novel thwarts the reader's expectations at every turn, blurring the line between man, memory, and machine."
—Details

"While the artificial-intelligence conceit feels utterly unique in this literary fiction context, Neill himself is universal in his specificity, his glacially slow emotional evolution both frustrating yet strangely relatable... Hutchins' true triumph, however, lies within his novel's convergence of language and pacing. The story he's chosen to tell, despite flirting with the fantastical, reveals no outrageous twists, nor dramatic revelations, yet he steadily builds tension through his linguistic choices. In other words, life's realistic detours are described in such a way as to heighten their relevance; a failed marriage's quotidian traumas are revealed with slow purpose, small pauses are used to oversize effect. In this modern tale of life's scattered attachments, of an individual's journey toward the self-sufficiency only a curated collection of wise entanglements can provide, even small revelations echo."
—New City

“Compelling, strange, but very endearing.”
—The Rumpus

“First-time novelist Hutchins manages to address weighty questions (e.g.,  what makes us human?) without ever losing his sly sense of humor in this witty, insightful Silicon Valley comedy of manners.”
—Library Journal

“I have a feeling A Working Theory of Love will be among the most talked-about novels this season… Please, readers, don’t miss this one.”
—Constant Reader

"A Working Theory of Love is a refreshing exploration of how the many relationships every person has can shape who we are. It is a reflection on failure, fear, grief, hope, and, of course, love. Lovers, friends, family, coworkers, and even the city in which one lives: Hutchins demonstrates what these connections can mean in our search for fulfillment." --ZYZZYVA

“Can a man resurrect his father by downloading his diaries into a super-computer? Can he also resurrect his love life after a sudden divorce, months after the honeymoon? Can the author weave a mesmerizing tale of redemption? You bet!”—Sacramento Bee

“SF’s most exciting new novelist”
—Huffington Post San Francisco

“A brainy, bright, laughter-through-tears, can’t-stop-reading-until-it’s-over kind of novel. Fatherless daughters, mother-smothered sons, appealing ex-wives, mouthy high school drop-outs—damn, this book’s got something for everyone!”
—Gary Shteyngart, author of Super Sad True Love Story and Absurdistan

“Scott Hutchins is a wonderfully original new voice, and A Working Theory of Love reads like what would happen if Walker Percy’s moviegoer woke up as a computer programmer in sexually ‘enlightened’ San Francisco. It’s about love in all its forms: between man and woman, man and parent, man and city, and man and machine.”
—Eric Puchner, author of Model Home and Music Through the Floor

“It takes a genius, a supercomputer, a disembodied voice and a man who’s stopped believing to create A Working Theory of Love. Original, wise, full of serious thinking, serious fun, and the shock of the new, this book is astonishing.”
—Adam Johnson, author of The Orphan Master’s Son

“Scott Hutchins’s wonderful new novel is right on the border of what is possible: a computer is programmed to be the reincarnation of the narrator’s dead father, and the narrator, a charming thirty-something American, learns what it is to be human and to love. The book is brilliantly observant about the way we live now, and its comic and haunting story will stay lodged in the reader’s memory.”
—Charles Baxter, author of The Feast of Love

“I am very happy to say that this book made me very sad, and also very happy—happy to have the witty, loving and unsentimental companionship of such a knowing loneliness. A smart and wonderful book with a real—a complicated and unpredictable—heart.”
—Rivka Galchen, author of Atmospheric Disturbances
 


"A brainy, bright, laughter-through-tears, can’t-stop-reading-until-it’s-over kind of novel. Fatherless daughters, mother-smothered sons, appealing ex-wives, mouthy high school drop-outs—damn, this book’s got something for everyone!"
—Gary Shteyngart, author of Super Sad True Love Story and Absurdistan

“I am very happy to say that this book made me very sad, and also very happy—happy to have the witty, loving and unsentimental companionship of such a knowing loneliness. A smart and wonderful book with a real—a complicated and unpredictable—heart.”
—Rivka Galchen, author of Atmospheric Disturbances



"Scott Hutchins's wonderful new novel is right on the border of what is possible: a computer is programmed to be the reincarnation of the narrator's dead father, and the narrator, a charming thirty-something American, learns what it is to be human and to love. The book is brilliantly observant about the way we live now, and its comic and haunting story will stay lodged in the reader’s memory."
—Charles Baxter, author of The Feast of Love



"Scott Hutchins is a wonderfully original new voice, and his important and perceptive novel, A Working Theory of Love, reads like what would happen if Walker Percy’s moviegoer woke up as a computer programmer in sexually ‘enlightened’ San Francisco. It’s about artificial intelligence, a man trying to resurrect his dead father, and the quest for romance in a world of one night stands.  Mostly, though, it’s about love in all its forms: between man and woman, man and parent, man and city, and man and machine.  But the love that makes this book a marvel is for the English language itself: every sentence in Hutchins’s sparkling debut is priceless."
—Eric Puchner, author of Model Home and Music Through the Floor



"It takes a genius, a supercomputer, a disembodied voice and a man who's stopped believing to create A Working Theory of Love, Scott Hutchins's brilliantly inventive debut novel. Incandescent with humor and insight, Hutchins's portrait of human longing falls as warm and slant across these pages as a California sunset. Original, wise, full of serious thinking, serious fun, and the shock of the new, this book is astonishing."
—Adam Johnson, author of Emporium, Parasites Like Us, and The Orphan Master's Son





About the Author


Scott Hutchins, a Truman Capote Fellow in the Wallace Stegner Program at Stanford University, received his MFA from the University of Michigan. His work has appeared in StoryQuarterly, The Rumpus, The New York Times, and Esquire. He currently teaches at Stanford.

More About the Author

Scott Hutchins is a former Truman Capote fellow in the Wallace Stegner Program at Stanford University, where he currently teaches. His work has appeared in Story Quarterly, Five Chapters, The Owls, The Rumpus, The New York Times, San Francisco Magazine and Esquire. It has also been--strangely--set to music. He's the recipient of two Hopwood awards and the Andrea Beauchamp prize in short fiction. In 2006 and 2010, He was an artist-in-residence at the Cité Internationale des Arts in Paris. He lives in San Francisco. A Working Theory of Love is his first novel.

You can follow news of A Working Theory of Love at
http://www.facebook.com/AWorkingTheoryOfLove

Related Media


Customer Reviews

Neill himself is an interesting character.
Christopher Barrett
In this book, Neill carries his working theory of love to compare his own humanity to the people he might love.
Amelia Gremelspacher
A great selection for book clubs or a summer read.
Lisa

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
This first novel is as good as they come. The story is an interesting one, and decidedly offbeat. You quickly care for the lead character, a young man --well, thirtyish-- who has come out of the Marriage from Hell and has been, to say the least, emotionally scarred by the experience. He's afraid to get on with his life and doesn't even know it: he won't commit to anything except his safe, buttoned down, isolated routine.

He works for a startup firm that's attempting to come up with a computer program that will allow the computer to beat the Turing test: successfully fool a human into thinking it's human too when they talk together. They've keyboarded a southern doctors' journals into the machine to help make it human. The doctor's dead now -suicide--but he was the young man's father. Soon the young man finds himself talking to a computer program he knows isn't his father but who, sometimes, sounds awfully like him. And as he very tentatively makes steps toward commitment again, to a lovely young woman who has her own issues, his father is the only one he can turn to for advice.

The plot twists in this marvelous novel are unexpected. The love story is satisfying. It rings true. You meet the young man's ex-wife too, and she is a real human being, surprisingly generous now that they're no longer married to each other -you like her, and you like him for not bearing a grudge against her for the sin of their both being too young to stay together. The young man, his girlfriend, his ex -they all grow up a bit in this novel, which is both mildly experimental (especially the sections involving the computer program) and resolutely old-fashioned.

Hutchins is a Truman Capote Fellow at Stanford and teaches there. If he continues to write books as good as this one, we'll be hearing about him for a long while.
2 Comments Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Alan A. Elsner VINE VOICE on September 2, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
Neall Bassett, a thirty something living in San Francisco recovering from a failed marriage, is gainfully employed by a small computer company working on a bot that can pass the famous Turing Test. The challenge is to build an artificial intelligence that takes on all the attributes of a human so that it can fool a tester in a blind test.

Neall is not a computer scientist. His particular expertise is that the programmers are using a data set based on the 20-year diary of his father, a doctor in Arkansas who committed suicide. The diaries, written by the elder Neall Bassett, always identified in the book as Dr. Bassett, are a treasure trove of trivia that hide layers of unexpressed feelings. Neall engages is a series of dead-pan dialogues with this computer which has absorbed the life wisdom of his father -- and yet is still a computer. As the book goes on, the programmers keep improving the program, searching for ways to make it more human. They import the seven deadly sins (all except lust which has been sold to another company), and attempt to give the computer a sex drive.

I happen to know a little about natural language processing, this being the field of someone very close to me. I can say that the program built in this book bears little similarity to way research is actually conducted. But it matters little, because this is a book about people, not computers.

Neall is a damaged individual afraid to commit. He conducts an on-again off-again relationship with 20-year-old Rachel; he also spars with his ex-wife Erin and falls into bed with a formidable programmer for a rival company, Jenn.

It slowly dawns on the reader that the real challenge posed by the Turing Test is not whether the "Dr.
Read more ›
2 Comments Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Todd on December 12, 2012
Format: Hardcover
By now, you've read the critical praise this book is piling up (if you haven't, you should). I've read a bunch of the reviews, but try as they might, each reviewer fails to fully convey the impact the book ultimately had on me. I understand. It's hard to put into words when attempting to describe to others just what it will mean to them. I usually end my attempts with a, "You just have to read it to understand."

So, you'll think you have a pretty decent grasp of the story Scott tells after reading the reviews. You don't. This is the beautiful thing about a book you've read that's THIS GOOD, and feel everyone around you must read when you get around to discussing the books you're all reading... It means different things to different people and my friends and I are still bringing this book up at various gatherings, having all finished it some time ago. We all live in the Bay Area, so maybe that's part of it. The story is based in San Francisco and Scott does an unusually good job of describing the vibe of living here, especially the city itself.

But, the interactions between the characters themselves (and, yes, the computer) are where this book gets you thinking. Scott's character development is excellent, and in weaving these characters together throughout AWTOL, you're left wondering what will happen next and what paths each of them will follow (no, take). Along the way, you'll be quietly comparing the humanness of each of them (including the computer) to your own, judging them, relating to them, admiring or disliking them. I came away with a better understanding of myself, and hopefully more patient of others. I think.

You just have to read it to understand. (And, I highly recommend that you do.)
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again

Product Images from Customers

Most Recent Customer Reviews

Search
ARRAY(0xa26c08d0)

What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?