“Rapture” by Susan Minot (Knopf, 2002)


Much like Steve Martin’s Shopgirl, Rapture is a story about a doomed relationship. Benjamin already has a fiancée by the name of Vanessa who he’s pretty sure he’s still in love with, while Kay meets Benjamin on the shooting of a movie and from then on the game plays out.  Sometimes he is madly in love with her, while she just wants to get away from him, while at other times the opposite takes place, and rarely do the two want each other.  What makes Rapture unique are a few things: the book takes place entirely around the setting of Kay going down on Benjamin, and this oral sex does not reach its orgasmic conclusion until page 112; and the reader is not only in the head of Benjamin or Kay, but both of them, each mind separated by a single asterisk, and each time you know whose head you are in because Minot follows the plan exactly.

Minot also has many lessons to give you: “Once a boy felt he’d made a conquest, then his energy was released and he was free to move on and put the girl out of his mind.  For a girl, that conquest left its hook in.”  The only think lacking in Rapture is a comfortable sense of the outside world which most books tend to offer.  Because of this  we do not know where we are, what jobs the characters have, and are confined to the narrow minds of these bizarre yet perfectly realistic characters.

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Originally published on May 6th 2002.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.

“Galileo’s Daughter: A Historical Memoir of Science, Faith, and Love” by Dava Sobel (Penguin, 2000)

Galileo's Daughterstarstarstarstar

The small picture of the nun on the front cover of Galileo’s Daughter may well be Suor (Sister) Maria Celeste, Galileo’s daughter, and then again it might not.  This stands as a summation of what is within the pages Dava Sobel has strung together.

Suor Maria Celeste begins every single one of her letters to her father, the great scientist Galileo, with “Most Illustrious” or “Most Beloved” or “Most Illustrious and Beloved Lord-Father.”  But then she is a nun.  Once you get over the astonishing endearments, you are taken into a world that has not existed for centuries.  The setting is Italy and the man is the genius known as Galileo Galilei, from his fledgling days as a scholar, to a broken man who died in a great pain.

While Galileo’s daughter does play a significant role in this piece of historical nonfiction, the man of the novel is Galileo, and this is his new biography, written with extreme research and in complete detail, where any questions you may have had on this man’s life are answered.

Sobel does an excellent job of presenting hitherto held beliefs or ideas on a specific aspect of Galileo’s life (such as the number of trials he had to attend), and then providing exact evidence from the reliable source with the truth (two, one for a hearing, and one for a sentencing).  The result is a book about Galileo that is unlikely to be equaled.

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Originally published on April 29th 2002.

Originally published in the Long Beach Union.