Kipper's GameKipper’s Game by Barbara Ehrenreich

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

in an old interview at the NYT, Ehrenreich says this is a novel of ideas more than of characters, and i think she’s correct. normally i get pretty snippy about thin characterizations, but in this novel, it does work. they’re not so thin they’re cliche (and in fact one is quite fleshed out), some are a bit bizarre, but they all read true, you know? like maybe you don’t see the whole character, but you can believe them anyway.

however! again, this is a novel of ideas. ideas about the purpose (not the meaning) of life, about why we learn as individuals and what’s to be done with all that stuff we know as a species, about where (if anywhere) spirituality fits into the picture. plus about a gazillion odd little interesting insights: about how much we fail to see around us, about men and women, about the politics of science and among scientists, about the morality of chopping up a million lab animals, and why we do what we do. the book is quite worth reading for these small insights alone. i suspect Ms. Ehrenreich didn’t think much about them when she wrote ’em–possibly just the froth from an overflowing mind–but there’s a reason she is one of the most honored intellectuals in US society, and one of its most apt social critics.

plus there is a weird sort of voyeuristic thrill in reading it not long after reading Living with a Wild God–many of her life’s circumstances are mined here for material. all writers do this, it’s not to be sniffed at, but it’s pretty rare to get a chance to see it happen on the page. if you’re a major Ehrenreich fan, read the recent book first and then read Kipper’s Game, it’ll be a doubly interesting journey.

i truly enjoyed this book, and it made me wish she’d written more SF. do you suppose we can get a petition going to convince her to do so?