Thursday, January 03, 2008


I'd not read Richard Powers, and I suppose it was about time. Prisoner's Dilemma is my favorite type of dense, po-mo novel--the type that doesn't read like a dense, po-mo novel. At first I found the book a bit distant and off-putting, but quickly I was subsumed by the strange revisionist history contained in alternate chapters, and once I realized the significance of these bizarre episodes featuring Walt Disney and interred Japanese-Americans, I was hooked.

Eddie Hobson, Sr. came to young adulthood during the second World War, and was unable to serve the cause to his satisfaction. By the time he enlists, he is assigned to travel air bases stateside and help decommission them, leaving a powerful desire for vengeance unsated. He feels that the world was wounded and that he was helpless to do anything about it. This feeling is amplified once the atom bomb is developed and used. Eddie is bright, but becomes so dismayed by his perceived inability to effect change in the world that he creates an alternate universe of his own in secret. Eddie's created reality merges with 'real' Reality in the symptoms of a mysterious illness: seizures, bleeding, erratic behavior. These symptoms render Eddie increasingly unemployable, and his wife and children find themselves at wit's end. A strange and affecting romp through Cold War America.

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