The Pygmalion portion of GALATEA 2.2 constitutes about half the book, which also presents some of the most interesting subplots in any of Powers’ multifaceted novels. This, his most accessible book to date, is notably autobiographical but with distortions that make it factually undependable as autobiography.
The love story recounts the more than decade-long romance between the protagonist, named Richard Powers, and C., his former student, with whom he shares his life and whom he follows to The Netherlands, exiling himself there for six years so that she can live near her parents. The rich fabric of this novel includes ruminations about the nature of language and communication, but these ruminations tie into Powers’ broader concerns about the overall meaning of life.
A portion of the book is an encomium to Taylor, the professor whose freshman English seminar enticed Powers from his physics major to the major in rhetoric that he completed for his bachelor’s degree. Throughout the book, the fictional Powers comments cogently on his writing, on the genesis of his books, on what he sought to accomplish by writing them.
He also shows the delicate side of his nature, the side that was devastated by the dissolution of his relationship with C.; the side that had him lusting after A., a graduate student a dozen years his junior; the side that caused him to question whether, despite his obvious success as a novelist, he should continue writing.
GALATEA 2.2 is an essential work in the Powers canon. For those unfamiliar with his earlier books, this is the novel with which to begin. An understanding of GALATEA 2.2 will make the reading of his other novels more fruitful.
Sources for Further Study
Chicago Tribune. July 5, 1995, p. B1.
The Christian Science Monitor. October 10, 1995, p. 13.
Los Angeles Times Book Review. June 18, 1995, p. 3.
The Nation. CCLXI, July 10, 1995, p. 64.
The New Republic. CCXII, June 26, 1995, p. 40.
The New York Times Book Review. C, July 23, 1995, p. 17.
The New Yorker. LXXI, August 21, 1995, p. 105.
Publishers Weekly. CCXLII, April 17, 1995, p. 37.
Time. CXLV, June 12, 1995, p. 72.
The Wall Street Journal. July 5, 1995, p. A7.
The Washington Post Book World. XXV, July 9, 1995, p. 1.