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The Mind-Body Problem (Contemporary American Fiction) Paperback – March 1, 1993
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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.
About the Author
Rebecca Newberger Goldstein received her doctorate in philosophy from Princeton University. Her award-winning books include the novels The Mind-Body Problem, Properties of Light, 36 Arguments for the Existence of God: A Work of Fiction, and nonfiction studies of Kurt Gödel and Baruch Spinoza. Her most recent work, Plato at the Googleplex, was released by Pantheon Books in March of 2014. She has received a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, has been designated a Humanist of the Year and a Freethought Heroine, and is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She lives in Massachusetts.Rebecca Goldstein is represented by Penguin Random House Speakers Bureau (prhspeakers.com).
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The plot centers on the not-so-happy marriage of Renee, a doctoral candidate in philosophy at Princeton, to Noam Himmel, a world-recognized "genius" in mathematics who teaches there. Renee has manipulated the marriage to give herself status in the face of her acute self-doubt about her own academic prowess. The "mind-body" problem (does the mind exist independently of the body), Renee's chosen area of study and research, underlays the relationship and the novel itself. The "problem" is in large part the continuing dispute over Spinoza's psycho-physical parallelism as to which that giant of philosophy anticipated today's neuroscience by reducing feelings and emotions to their physical source in the human anatomy. For Noam, the mathematician, the dispute is irrelevant since numbers and equations derive their validity independently of human intervention and the marriage founders on Noam's lack of feeling for the "body" and very soon, Renee.
The philosophic and amatory discussions in the novel are stimulated by a somewhat more focused friend of Renee's, Ava, a marvelous invention who "understands everything" and a heavy, almost destructive extra-marital affair with another mathematician, Daniel Korper. Renee's mother, a Yiddish "worrier" and Renee's Orthodox sister-in-law, Tzippy, lend a Jewish counterpoint to Renee's mind-body preoccupation - as with Goldstein herself, her Jewish heritage insinuates itself into her work and the novel's play whether she likes it or not.
Spinozist that I am, I don't see what all of the philosophical fuss is about (the blessed one proved his case beyond a doubt, validated by Darwin, Freud and the human genome), but the book itself is a good academic yarn and the sex isn't bad. The resolution of the relationship between Renee and Noam is - well, read the book!