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Tuesday, November 30

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On the Web Thu Sep 24 2009

2006 NBA Winner: The Echo Maker

The National Book Awards remembers Richard Powers's The Echo Maker, our September Book Club selection.

echo maker.JPGUm...perhaps Harold Augenbraum, Executive Director of the National Book Foundation, has some sort of memory issues as well. According to his description of the book, the protagonist is named "Jack"*: "He has what? Capgras syndrome, identified by Joseph Capgras in 1923. And this precipitates not only one but two family dramas, and a questioning of not only of how the mind works but what effect do changes in any natural environment have on the individual and that individual's place in the human ecology. The book's readers believe Karin is his sister, but the protagonist Jack does not. He thinks that for some reason 'an actress' has been brought in to play his sister. And even a dog that resembles his own has been found to visit him at the rehab facility. And we as readers believe he is Jack's dog even though Jack does not. They bring in the neuroscientist Weber, who resembles Oliver Sacks--at least to me, but that would make him a sort of imposter (or he may be related in some way to Ernst Weber, the psychophysicist). As much as he tries to help Jack, he ends up damaging his own marriage. He tries to decipher the case and ends up recognizing (and I use that word advisedly) his own alienation from his wife back east. I mean, this is a man who, when he writes case studies, in order to protect the patient's identity, makes up names for them. So they become imposters in their own cases. And then he develops a fascination for Jack's rehab aide, so he becomes an imposter in his previous life. And then you remember that none of these people are real, so they are all imposters, puppets, with Richard Powers the grand puppenmeister convincing you of their reality."

*Mark Schluter, not Jack, is the man afflicted with Capgras in this story.

As of Sunday, the National Book Foundation finished their salute to past winners and voting is now open for the best National Book Awards Fiction. The shortlist includes John Cheever, William Faulkner, Flannery O'Connor, Eudora Welty, Thomas Pynchon and University of Chicago visiting professor Ralph Ellison. Cast your vote here and your email address will be entered to a win two tickets to the 60th National Book Awards ceremony on November 18.

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Harold Augenbraum / September 24, 2009 3:14 PM

Oops. Thanks for catching the mistake. I'll ask for it to be corrected.

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