[lit-ideas] Re: Thinks...

  • From: JulieReneB@xxxxxxx
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Tue, 1 Jun 2004 14:06:15 EDT

Ah well, according to the reviews it starts out fairly well and goes 
downhill.  I haven't picked it up again yet and am still sitting in the middle 
of the 
fourth chapter, so perhaps by the time I reach the end, I too, will hate it. 
Julie Krueger

========Original Message========
Subj:[lit-ideas] Re: Thinks...
Date:6/1/2004 11:52:09 AM Central Daylight Time
Sent on:    

R. Paul writes:
>JL [Speranza] will have the whole story soon.
Well, I was intrigued by the title: 'Thinks ...'. I suppose the intentional  
ambiguity is as to _what_ thinks (the mind) and what it (she?) thinks 
Interestingly, the OED has 'think' as a dialectal noun meaning 'thought'. 
Some  quotes provided below, plus some excerpts from customers' reviews, etc.
Unless the novel gives a better context why it's titled 'thinks...'?
Of course, the main problem started with A. Turing, who thought machines  did 
not think -- but then he was not too worried: they cannot _love_ either. (In  
philosophy, it has been mainly G. Ryle who tried to show that the thinks are  
from the ghost in the machine -- his ghost in his machine?)
From the OED
'think', n. 
1. a. An act of (continued) thinking; a meditation. 
1834 Tait's Mag. I.  426/1 
We lie lown  yonder..and have time for our ain think. 
1870 MRS. WHITNEY We Girls ii, 
Ruth did talk..when  she came out of one of her thinks. 
1891 FENN  Mahme Nousie II. v. 73 
Let's have a cigar  and a quiet  think.

b.  nonce-use. An idea, a  thought. 

1886 H. MAUDSLEY Nat. Causes & Supernat. Seemings 33 
To every one a thing  is..what he thinks Toin effect, a think. 
1887 G. MACDONALD Home Again iv, 
A thing must be a  think before it be a  thing.

2. a.  What one thinks about something; an  opinion. 

1835 LADY GRANVILLE Lett. (1894) II. 187 
My own private think  is that he will execute another voluntary. 
1861 J. BROWN  Horæ Subs. Ser.  II. 355 
The  cobbler..dispenses his â??thinkâ??..to all comers on all subjects.

b.  to have another  think coming: to be greatly mistaken. 

1937 Amer.  Speech XII. 317/1 
Several different  statements used for the same Sevethat of some one's making 
a  mistake...[e.g.] you have another think coming. 
1942 T. BAILEY Pink Camellia xxvii. 199 
If you think you can  get me out of Gaywood, you have another think coming. 
1979 Jrnl. R.  Soc. Arts CXXVII. 221/2 
Any design  consultant who thinks he is going to get British Leyland right by 
himself on his  own has got another think  coming.

3.  attrib. and Comb. (nonce-wds.), as thinkache,  pain of thought, mental 
suffering; think-room,  a room or apartment for  meditation. 

1892 BRIDGER Depression p. v, 
Each separate  thinkache enumerated by my depressed patients. 
1906 Month July 72 Castle, work-room,  think-room.
In a message dated 5/31/2004 10:40:30 PM Eastern Standard Time,  
JulieReneB@xxxxxxx writes:

But it's  a truly fascinating discussion of consciousness, 
wrapped in a novel -- and  the plot is also an aspect of the examination and 
exploration of what  consciousness is. 
Some excerpts from customers' reviews below.
From amazon.com
"a professor who runs a center for research on artificial intelligence and a  
recently widowed visiting writer-in-residence teaching a creative writing  
seminar. They spar over his work, and she explores its implications in the  
exercises she gives her students, all reproduced in the book. (An exploration 
what it would be like to be raised in a colourless world and then suddenly  
exposed to colour, written in the style of the author of your choice, for  
Well, this is what McEvoy was trying to exercise on us ("The world is  
colourless", said Wittgenstein).  
"He also regales us with facts about the field of consciousness. But more fun 
is the student essay mimicking studies of bat consciousness written in the 
style  of Samuel Beckett."  
-- The reference to the famous essay, "What is it to be a bat?'. Apparently,  
only bats know (or think they know).  
"this time on consciousness, particularly as it relates to cognitive science  
and AI" 
"The scientific research on Artificial Intelligenc was well-covered, so much  
so that I stopped after chapter 3 to see in the Acknowledgements where he had 
got his material from?"

And where does he? Daniel Dennett? 
"For me, 'Thinks' is the best novel of 2001. Easily."  
"Upon reaching the end of the novel, in frank disbelief that this was all I  
would get for my money and time, I was presented with two pages of  
'Acknowledgements' recommending 21 heavyweight scientific books among those  
'read in 
preparation for this novel'. How this mass of high-level theory is  connected 
with such a facile tale of the sexual romps of shallow and unpleasant  people 
a stereotypical university campus, may forever remain a puzzle as  great as 
the problem of consciousness itself. " 
"Ralph Messenger is a professor, a philospher by training, but now head of  
the Centre for Cognitive Sciences at the University of Gloucester. He has a  
solid rep in his field, with past positions at Cal Tech and MIT." 
"I've read the works of Damasio and Pinker, among the others brain  
researchers mentioned by Lodge as inspirators for this book, and, believe me, 
if  you 
want to know about human nature, you'll better read them." 
Editorial reviews: 
Inimitable British writer Lodge (Small  World; The Art of Fiction) is at his 
best in another of his comedies of manners  set in the academic world. His 
10th novel is distinguished by gentle satire,  vigorous intelligence, 
ribald humor and a perspicacious understanding  of the human condition. At 
fictitious University of Gloucester, science and  literature collide in the 
persons of 40-something Ralph Messenger and Helen  Reed. Ralph's research as 
director of cognitive science and his wit and  charisma as an explicator of 
artiicial intelligence make him a bit of a star in  Britain, and with the 
ladies. He delights in opportunities for extramarital  activities within the 
confines of the don't-ask-don't-tell arrangement he's  established with his 
Ralph's worthy opponent, newly widowed Helen, a  novelist and Henry James 
devotee, has come to the university to teach creative  writing. Helen 
represents the 
religious conflict common to Lodge's characters.  She has nostalgic respect 
for her Catholic upbringing, but she's enduring a  crisis of faith. Because 
her strong moral conscience, she disapproves of  Ralph's infidelities. Yet 
sparks fly during their heated debates, and they share  an undeniable 
and mutual respect. Ralph argues convincingly for  artificial intelligence as 
the next rung on the evolutionary ladder, but Lodge's  own opinion clearly 
corresponds to Helen's: she's dubious of a machine that  could embody human 
consciousness, "a computer that has hangovers and falls in  love and suffers 
bereavement." The erfectly paced story unfolds alternately via  Helen's 
Ralph's audio-dictated journal and an omniscient narrator.  Although still 
politically aware, Lodge is arguably less concerned with social  commentary 
(as in his 
Booker-nominated Nice Work) than with human nature, and he  digs deeper here 
than in Therapy into the universal mysteries of death and the  soul. Readers 
and booksellers will be more than pleased by this entertaining and  
appropriately thought-provoking novel. 6-city author tour.  
From  Library Journal
This audio begins  quite brilliantly, with Ralph Messenger, head of the 
Cognitive Science  department of a fictitious university, recording both deep 
random thoughts  on life's imponderables onto a tape. The listener is 
immediately engaged. The  second chapter is similarly thought-provoking, with 
widowed novelist  Helen Read writing her thoughts in her journal as she 
a visiting  writer-in-residence tour at the same university. Ralph and Helen 
meet, of  course, and begin to get together to discuss these conundrums. 
it becomes  quickly apparent, unfortunately, that the real story of the book 
is whether, or  rather when, he will persuade her into bed, despite his wife 
and four children.  A third voice, an omniscient narrator, describes (in the 
present tense) what  transpires in the interim between journal writing and 
recording. Gordon Griffin  provides virtually no differentiation among the 
voices, making it  annoyingly necessary to gather from context who i_ 
with each change,  once the listener realizes there has been one. Two, or 
ideally three, readers  would have been a vast improvement. The high level of 
interest demonstrated at  the beginning quickly deteriorates into a 
pedestrian and 
predictable tale of a  rather ordinary extramarital affair, making this a 
second choice for purchase  unless the library has a large coterie of Lodge 
fans. _
_From Booklist_ (http://www
Much of the  pleasure of Lodge's sparkling novels is derived from his playful 
yet shrewd use  of fiction as a laboratory, a controlled space within which 
the workings of the  human heart and mind--the battle between emotion and 
rationality, desire and  morality--can be put in motion and analyzed. It 
perfect sense, therefore,  that Lodge would write a tale that pits art 
science. Using a favorite  setting, the academy, and a favorite form, the 
he pairs a highly  responsible novelist, Helen Reed, an admirer of Henry 
James, no less, with an  egotistical scientist, Ralph Messenger, who not only 
up the prestigious  cognitive sciences department at the University of 
Gloucester but also  disseminates his mechanistic view of consciousness on 
television. Helen, whose  handsome husband has abruptly died, has sought 
refuge from 
her memory-laden  London flat by moving on campus as the university's 
writer-in-residence. Ralph,  quite the womanizer (an indulgence his wealthy 
wife seems t accept),  attempts to seduce Helen, but darned if she doesn't 
scruples. Mutually  attracted, however, they spar in witty discussions about 
the value of  literature's depictions of consciousness versus science's more 
material  approach, then retreat to confide in their journals. Helen takes a 
traditional  approach to recording her thoughts and feelings, while Ralph, 
into a  tape recorder, attempts to record verbatim the flow of his random and 
randy  thoughts to comic effect. Events soon conspire to deepen their 
involvement, and  as things reach a madcap crescendo during an international 
conference on the  workings of the brain, Lodge revels in the absurdities and 
poignancy of the  creative drive, ambition, eroticism, infidelity, mortality, 
love--the  lifeblood of literature, the ghost in the machine, the force no 
computer can  measure or emulate.  
_The  Atlantic Monthly
A smart,  seductive novel of ideas...Lodge is at the top of his game. _
David Lodge is the author of ten  novels, including Changing Places, Small 
World (shortlisted for  the Booker Prize), Nice Work (also shortlisted for 
Booker Prize),  Paradise News, and Therapy. He is also the author of several 
works  of literary criticism, including The Art of Fiction and The Practice  
Writing. _

Ralph  Messenger is a man who knows what he wants and generally gets it. 
Approaching  his fiftieth birthday, he has good reason to feel pleased with 
himself. As  Director of the prestigious Holt Belling Centre for Cognitive 
at the  University of Gloucester, he is much in demand as a pundit on 
developments in  artificial intelligence and the study of human consciousness 
â?? â??the 
last  frontier of scientific enquiry.â?? He enjoys an affluent lifestyle 
subsidized by  the wealth of his American wife, Carrie. Known to colleagues 
on the 
conference  circuit as a womanizer and to Private Eye as â??Media Dong,â?? he 
has a 
tacit  understanding with Carrie to refrain from philandering in his own back 
yard.  This resolution is already weakening when he meets and is attracted to 
Helen  Reed, a distinguished novelist still grieving the sudden death of her 
husband  more than a year ago. She has rented out her London house and taken 
a post as  writer-in-residence at Gloucester University, partly to try and 
get_over her  bereavement. Fascinated and challenged by a personality 
at odds with  her own, Helen is aroused by Ralphâ??s bold advances, but resists 
on moral  principle. The stand-off between them is shattered by a series of 
events that  dramatically confirms the truth of Ralphâ??s dictum, â??We can 
know for  certain what another person is thinking.â?? _

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