Sunday, March 11, 2007

Richard Powers

The Echo Maker is one of my favorite authors at his cerebral best (see earlier posts). As I prefer to let authors speak for themselves, a few quotes: "He wrote for the insight of the phrase, to locate, in some strange chain, its surprise truth. The way a reader received his stories said as much about the reader's story as about the story itself." (p.221) "We told ourselves backward into diagnosis and forward into treatment. Story was the storm at the cortex's core." (p.414)

"Confabulation: inventing stories to patch over the missing bits...the fabric of reality rewoven by a vitamin-B deficiency...humans probably being the only creatures who can have memories of things that never happened." (p.101) demanding that we each "...question the solidity of the self. We were not one, continuous, indivisible whole, but instead, hundreds of separate subsystems, with changes in any one sufficient to disperse the provisional confederation into unrecognizable new countries." (p.171)

Or quote within quote, quoting the work of the cognitive neurologist protagonist: "'Consciousness works by telling a story, one that is whole, continuous, and stable. When the story breaks, consciousness rewrites it. Each revised draft claims to be the orginal.'" (p.185)

"As she shrunk and the sea of grass expanded, she saw the scale of life--millions of tangled tests, more answers than there were questions, and a nature so swarmingly wasteful that no single experiment mattered. ...Nature could sell at a loss; it made up in volume. Guess relentlessly, and it didn't matter if almost every guess was wrong." (p.75)

"The brain that retrieved a memory was not the brain that had formed it. Even retrieving a memory mangled what was formerly there. ...the mind's eye cannibalizing the brain's eye, social intelligence stealing the circuitry of spatial orientation. What-if mimicking what-is; simulations simulating simulations. ...The self bled out, the work of mirror neurons, empathy circuits, selected for and reserved through many species for their obscure survival value." (p.383)