Generosity: An Enhancement by Richard Powers examines the root causes of happiness and anxiety while critiquing the relationship between science, the media, and big business. The narrative follows a reluctant creative writing teacher who discovers that one of his students is genetically predisposed to happiness. When the world finds out about the student’s gift — mainly due to the teacher’s meddling — a media circus ensues. The real question, though, is whether the student’s genetic predisposition will allow her to remain buoyant amidst all the chaos — and whether the teacher will be able to overcome his own nihilistic predispositions in order to help his student.
This is the second Richard Powers novel I’ve read in as many months, and I’m quickly becoming a fan. Though I don’t love some of his postmodern metafictional touches — e.g., blurring the line between author and narrator by allowing the narrator to comment as an author on how best to proceed with the narrative — I also don’t find these flourishes to be overly distracting. It also helps that Powers occasionally pokes fun at his own conventions — in one instance having his protagonist pick up a book by an author known for his metafictional flourishes.
Overall, an intriguing read.