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About the Author
Date of Birth:June 18, 1957
Place of Birth:Evanston, Illinois
Education:M.A., University of Illinois, 1979
What People are Saying About This
Powers is better than the best of almost anybody else. --John Leonard, Harper's Magazine
Reading Group Guide
Questions for Discussion
1. Writing and the role of the imagination are central to Generosity. What is creative nonfiction? How does Russell's course -- Creative Nonfiction 14, Sect. RS: Journal and Journey -- relate to the novel you are reading?
Happiness gene identified? Did you think it would evade detection forever? The Alzheimer's gene, the alcoholism gene, the homosexuality gene, the aggression gene, the novelty gene, the fear gene, the stress gene, the xenophobia gene, the criminal-impulse gene, and the fidelity gene have all come and gone. By the time the happiness gene rolls around, even journalists should have long ago learned to hedge their bets.What does the idea of a happiness gene mean to you? Do you agree with Thomas Kurton when he says, "Why shouldn't we make ourselves better than we are now? We're incomplete. Why leave something as fabulous as life up to chance?" Do you want to reverse the aging process and live forever? 4. Why does Russell's moment of celebrity as a magazine writer end so soon? 5. Why do you think Richard Powers made Thassa Algerian? What did you learn about Algeria from the novel that you didn't know before? 6. Why does John Thornell attack Thassa? What do you think of Russell's reaction to the attack? 7. Does your view of Thomas Kurton change in the course of the novel? 8. What role does the idea of prophecy play in the novel? 9. What is Powers's view of free will? What's your view of our future if genetic determinism prevails? 10. What was your first impression of Thassa? What did you decide was the root of her happiness? And how much did you change your view by the end of the novel? 11. How are Russell and Candace good for each other while also being an unlikely couple? How fair or unfair do you think it is for Candace to be asked not to see Thassa? Did she surprise you by complying, and why do you think she did? 12. Discuss the happiness experiments that Candace tells Russell about on pages 125-27. How do their careers -- his as a writer and hers as a psychotherapist -- shape the way they interpret life's circumstances? Is it easy for you to approach good surprises without worrying, applying the mentality of "A dime's a dime. Grab it when you see it"? 13. Ultimately, what is Tonia's role in Thassa's life? 14. Discuss Thassa's appearance on Oona's television show. What does Thassa's experience with the media say about the way we gather information, and the way identities (of celebrities and regular viewers alike) are manufactured in the age of new technology? 15. Should Thassa have been allowed to sell her eggs? Was Truecyte entitled to a licensing fee? Discuss the need for boundaries between science, medicine, and big business. 16. How did you react to the novel's closing scene? Who did you think was narrating the novel up until that point? Were you surprised by Thassa's final appearance? 17. Who are the novel's most generous characters? Are these also the happiest ones? 18. How would you respond if you tried some of Russell's writing assignments, such as "Find one thing in the last day worth telling a total stranger," or to Candace's suggestion -- "Close your eyes and write a sentence in the air. Use your left hand. Just one sentence. A simple one"? 19. What do you believe about the nature of happiness? Which factor is stronger in determining whether someone will be happy: genetics or generosity? What (or who) brings you the most happiness? Would you be willing to take a pill or participate in genetic-engineering experiments if it meant being happier? 20. Are there themes and ideas in Generosity you recognize from other books by Richard Powers? And in what ways is this novel a departure or different from his other books?