Saving St. Germ

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Having made her fictional debut with a book so compulsively readable "it has to be sandblasted out of your hands" (The Washington Post Book World), Carol Muske Dukes gives us a new novel that is even more engrossing - and also funny, sad, and ceaselessly provocative. Esme Charbonneau is a brilliant chemist who teaches at the University of Greater California, in a suburb of Los Angeles. She's married to a technical director for television and has one child, Olivia, who has been described by one or two clinicians ...
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1995 - Paperback - Used - Acceptable - – Shows substantial shelf-wear which may include some chips and tears on dust jacket (if present) and some yellowing of the pages. May ... contain old price stickers or their residue, inscriptions or dedications from previous owners in first few pages and remainder marks. - .- - All orders are processed and shipped within 24 business hours, Mon - Fri. Expedited shipping and tracking available within the US. Hall Street’s No-Worry guarantee lets you buy with confidence! Read more Show Less

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Overview

Having made her fictional debut with a book so compulsively readable "it has to be sandblasted out of your hands" (The Washington Post Book World), Carol Muske Dukes gives us a new novel that is even more engrossing - and also funny, sad, and ceaselessly provocative. Esme Charbonneau is a brilliant chemist who teaches at the University of Greater California, in a suburb of Los Angeles. She's married to a technical director for television and has one child, Olivia, who has been described by one or two clinicians as "autistic," but who really isn't - she's an odd child, a creative child, definitely unlike other children; but not impaired, just indefatigably herself. Esme has been chemically "deconstructing" the world for some time now. It seems she's taken refuge in chemistry psychologically to the extent that she is finding it harder and harder to stay focused on the 'real-' world. She can't stop taking things apart chemically - food, cosmetics, people's faces. What she is afraid is a kind of scientific nervous breakdown is, in fact, the very seeds of brilliant theoretical inspiration. What happens to Esme is this: her marriage breaks up, her child gets sick, she has trouble keeping up at work, eventually she loses her job. The irony of her demise is that it comes at just the moment that she is strongest, most herself. She makes an important research discovery at the precise moment she is fired by her university. She discovers information about her past, renews her relationship with her mother, and reaches a point of insight into her child's character, as well as her own. What happens to Esme doesn't happen because she is crazy, but rather because she is a powerful, unusual, creative woman who begins to live her life the way she must, the only way she can. On the one hand, she is extraordinary. On the other, she is part of the new, growing class of "ordinary" women who are single mothers, heads of households, involved in careers. Where theoretical science and do

From the author of Dear Digby--a tragicomic tour de force. A brilliant chemist walks the tightrope between genius and madness, as she becomes obsessed with solving the equations in her "Theory of Everything." "A prescient novel for the 1990s."--New York Newsday.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Dukes follows up the entertaining but flawed Dear Digby with a more mature second novel, in which she continues her exploration of female creativity and eccentricity. As gifted scientist Esme Charbonneau Tallich nears a breakthrough in the formulation of a Theory of Everything, her behavior becomes increasingly bizarre. She is suspended from her job at a large California university after she neglects her teaching and research duties. Her fragile marriage to an aspiring stand-up comic deteriorates. Then her most vital relationship is threatened when her husband, Jay, agrees with the teachers and doctors who want to institutionalize their peculiar but gifted daughter Ollie, a five-year-old who spends most of her time observing the world from inside a cardboard box decorated to look like a television set. A series of ``Imaginary Lectures to Ollie,'' woven into the plot, enhance our understanding of the often-difficult Esme and her strong bonds to both her career and her daughter. This portrait of the artist as wife, mother and academic limns the semi-madness of a creative woman. It is engaging and irreverent, peopled by offbeat, sharply delineated characters. Long a highly regarded poet, Dukes has developed into a skilled novelist as well. (Feb.)
Library Journal
Esme Charbonneau--wife, mother, Harvard graduate, and scientist--is hired by a prestigious university because ``they had to have a woman.'' Esme relishes teaching and studying organic chemistry. In fact, she visualizes chemical structures to relax and reduce stress. Her husband, Jay, is a technical director for Paramount by day and a hapless stand-up comic by night. Their five-year-old daughter, Ollie, exhibits signs of emotional dysfunction, which alienates Jay but leaves Esme undaunted. The long-suffering husband laments that ``Mom has her head in the stars and the kid acts like she's from Mars.'' As Esme struggles to discover a TOE (Theory of Everything), her marriage disintegrates, her teaching declines, and her state of mind becomes increasingly fragile. Dukes's interesting blend of scientific discourse, dream sequences, and ruminations on the ``Sexist Highlights of Science History'' will appeal to general readers and to anyone with a bent for the sciences.-- Kimberly G. Allen, National Assn. of Home Builders Lib., Washington, D.C.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780140239133
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 12/12/1994
  • Pages: 304
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 5.00 (h) x 1.00 (d)

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