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On the Nature of Human Romantic Interaction Hardcover – Apr 29 2003


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: The Dial Press (April 29 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385335938
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385335935
  • Product Dimensions: 21.9 x 14.7 x 2.2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 340 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,441,422 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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By A Customer on April 3 2004
Format: Hardcover
A disappointing collection of paint-by-numbers short stories. The collection is about half contemporary academia grad-student romances and half odd-ball Victorian historical romance; neither half is sufficiently well done to represent an advance in either (admittedly tired) genre. Iagnemma has a few good plots, but they are stretched too thinly over too many pages. The language lacks precision and his sentences meander; Iagnemma needs a sharper-eyed editor.
These are the kind of stories where a character reads something profound about his life in an e-mail and the narrative is concerned enough to let us know he "clicks 'delete'." The self-consciously clever use of equations in the first story is, finally, just for show, and the story itself works fine without it. Much of rest reads like an MfA thesis by someone with heart, but not enough to say.
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Format: Hardcover
In this short story collection, we're witnesses to the clumsy dance between scientific mind and the human heart. Karl Iagnemma's distinctive characters - a failed engineer, a phrenologist, a mathematician, an amateur geometrician, a forester, a doctor, and others - all muddle through the familiar scientific terrain of conferences, scientific journals, equations and experiments, which serve as a perfect counterpoint to the messy relationships and longings in each of their lives.
Iangemma is perfectly qualified for writing stories using these themes; he works as a robotics researcher at MIT by day, and writes short-stories after-hours. His writing talents have been praised and published in prestigious literary journals. Nevertheless, his writing shows that he is clearly part techie. For an engineer like myself, it's refreshing to read someone who knows the science/technological mindset from the inside, and weaves touches of that sensibility into fine set of well-told stories.
However, make no mistake - this isn't science fiction - it's fiction about scientists. For example, in the title story (my personal favorite) the narrator, a "failed engineer," describes the Venn diagrams and coupled sets of differential equations he's created in attempts to describe his love for his girlfriend. Another favorite story of mine, "Children of Hunger" hasn't been mentioned often in reviews here; in it, a medical researcher in a stale marriage asks his lonely wife to make a key sacrifice to further his research, leading to an ending with a clever twist.
Overall, the stories tilt slightly towards the illuminating the human heart rather than exalting the scientific mind. Nevertheless, Iagnemma's characters do discover something -- the emotional texture of their lives outside the lab, and Iagnemma tells their stories in a way few others have. Recommended.
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By A Customer on Nov. 11 2003
Format: Hardcover
In an age where the New York Times has dropped its clean style of writing to favor news written in pirhouettes, Mr. Iagnemma has a fresh voice. His sentences are short and crisp, drawing the reader like a magnet.
I spied the book tossed on some shelf in disease section of Barnes & Noble. I carried it over to the cafe to browse through it.
The first sentence of the title story hooked me and the rest delivered as promised. I read straight, in one sitting, the story about an engineering student trying to woo his ex-advisor's daughter into marriage.
It was clear, well-paced and cleverly constructed. I felt relieved that even engineering students and mathematicians try to rationalize "love" and "romance" into theorems and predictable equations, not only us lesser analytic "mortals." The narrator was charming, the love interest a little fuzzy, but that's okay. It was fun!
I learned tonight that scientists can have a sense of humor, too.
I plan to keep track of this fellow and definitely, capture another glimpse of his book at B & N.
He's carving himself a special niche, right aside the surgeon/physicians writers group.
Enjoy!
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Format: Hardcover
When I first read the title story of this collection, "On the Nature of Human Romantic Interaction" in Paris Review a couple of years ago, I was immediately hit by the opening: "When students here can't stand another minute, they get drunk and hurl themselves off the top floor of the Gehring building, the shortest building on campus." A writer myself, I know very well how difficult it is to find a great opening. Nowadays, many writers-- including some high-profile ones-- seem to seek a shocking effect for its own sake, so it's often forced and unnatural. Karl Iagnemma does not have this problem. His stories are as real as they are impressive. The aforementioned opening passage resonates with my years in MIT where students are as crazy and talented as Karl's characters, yet it sends a strong signal to the reader of a non-boring campus story. Oddly, this opening also reminds me of Ha Jin's award-wining novel, Waiting, which opens with: "Every summer Lin Kong returned to Goose Village to divorce his wife, Shuyu." Here, two talented writers "sing different tunes with equal skill," as a Chinese proverb says. These openings simply make you want to read on.
And here's more: none of the stories in this collection disappointed me. I'm a picky reader. At first, I thought Karl's stories attracted me because he and I have something in common: we both are scientists trained at MIT (though I didn't know him), and we both are writers. Soon I realized it's the in-depth portrayal of human nature that resonates the most. In his story "Zilkowski's Theorem", a mathematician writes his girlfriend's Ph.D dissertation. He does it for love. But after his girlfriend is converted to a new religion and becomes another man's finance, she wants to be "honest" and publicize the fact that the dissertation wasn't hers.
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