Sunday, May 29, 2016

The new always threatens the old

"Brilliance is rooted in a knowledge that is known to many, which a brilliant mind extends beyond the usual to new revelations."

"And genius?"

"Ah... genius is rooted in a totally new observation, as yet unknown, which the man of genius uncovers and which he alone has the capacity to extend to greater revelations — to new concepts. It's a very solitary state and one that carries great responsibility to see that the new concept is integrated into old experiences. That required not only genius, but charisma and celebrity to attract attention to the new thought, to convince that it brings a change that is nonthreatening, and to persuade not only to its application but to a total commitment. For the new always threatens the old."
A Man of Genius, by Lynn Rosen, is a serviceable novel.

I can't quite recall what the hook was for me in the early reviews and press releases. Maybe "Gothic suspense for lovers of Agatha Christie, Daphne DuMaurier, Gillian Flynn." I'll bite.

The story is about an architect and three women — two wives and a mistress — plus the lawyer tasked with executing his will. The books' several parts cover his life from these different perspectives. There's a mystery at the book's heart; although it's alluded to in the novel's opening section, the mystery doesn't really announce itself till about halfway through (if you're looking for a mystery novel, this one develops too far along for it be that).

Arguably the story is more about the women and their attraction to "genius," but sadly, I never saw any evidence of his genius, and I couldn't buy into their draw to him. Rosen might've learned from the fiction-writing MOOCs I'm enrolled in, to show not tell.

Perhaps I'm spoiled by having read so many good writers lately, with poetic sensibilities and philosophical outlooks and a clear love of language. A Man of Genius pales by comparison.

More than any plot or character, the real story of the book is that of its author. A Man of Genius is her first novel, written at the age of 84. If nothing else, I'm inspired to write a better book by the time I'm that age.

Interview with Lynn Rosen.

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