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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780679737094
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/28/1992
Series: Vintage International Series
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 496
Sales rank: 332,631
Product dimensions: 5.15(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.99(d)

About the Author

Norman Rush is the author of four works of fiction: Whites, a collection of stories, and three novels, Subtle Bodies, Mating, and Mortals. His stories have appeared in The New YorkerThe Paris Review, and Best American Short StoriesMating was the recipient of the National Book Award. Rush and his wife live in Rockland County, New York.

Reading Group Guide


“Exhilarating . . . vigorous and luminous. . . . Few books evoke so eloquently the state of love at its apogee.” —The New York Times Book Review

The introduction, discussion questions, author biography, and suggested reading list that follow are designed to enhance your group’s discussion of Norman Rush’s National Book Award–winning novel Mating.

1. Mating is narrated in the voice of a woman, a graduate student in nutritional anthropology. Why might Norman Rush have made this particular narrative choice? How convincing is his depiction of a woman’s consciousness and point of view? Why is it important that the story be told by a woman? By an anthropologist?

2. The narrator describes herself as suffering from “scriptomania,” [p. 407] the need to get everything in her life into writing. “The point is to exclude nothing” [p. 26]. Why does she feel such a compelling urge to write everything down? What is the value of “telling everything”?

3. Why does the narrator describe her affairs with men just prior to meeting Denoon? How do they set up or illuminate what follows? In what respects is Denoon different from, and superior to, the men who precede him?

4. What are the main characteristics of life at Tsau? In what sense is it an attempt at utopia? How is it different from both Western and African societies? Does it offer a successful alternative to these societies?

5. The narrator observes, “One difference between women and men is that women really want paradise. Men say they do, but what they mean by it is absolute security, which they can obtain only through utter domination of the near and dear and the environment as far as the eye can see” [p. 44]. Is this an accurate assessment? In what ways does Tsau seek to alter this version of paradise as male domination? What other hard truths does the novel deliver about relations between men and women?

6. Why is organized religion kept out of Tsau? What does Denoon believe to be the taproot of religion?

7. What picture emerges of the African residents of Tsau? What role do such characters as Dineo, Dorcas, and Raboupi play in the novel? How do they regard the only whites in Tsau, the narrator and Denoon?

8. After a bitterly contentious parlamente meeting, in which Denoon is verbally attacked, the narrator remarks “Yesterday was a catastrophe trying to tell us something like that Tsau is an organism trying to deal with us as foreign bodies. Yesterday was only the latest trope” [p. 380]. Why do the villagers grow hostile to Denoon? Why do they mistrust him? In what senses are Denoon and the narrator “foreign bodies”?

9. The narrator tries to avoid thinking of marriage as “a form of slowed-down wrestling where the two parties keep trying different holds on each other until one of them gets tired and goes limp, at which point you have the canonical happy marriage, voilà” [p. 381]. What kind of relationship do she and Denoon have? What has drawn them together? What threatens to pull them apart?

10. Mating is a vast and intellectually challenging novel that incorporates history, politics, philosophy, anthropology, economics, feminism, and much more into its narrative scope. Why has Norman Rush chosen to call it Mating? Is it chiefly a love story?

11. During an argument, Denoon asks the narrator, “Can’t anything be innate?… Does everything have to be an exfoliation from the minutiae of our miserable childhoods?” [p. 208] What connection does the novel reveal between Denoon’s childhood and his adulthood? According to the narrator, what are the seminal and shaping events of his early life? Is Denoon right to question the explanatory value of referring everything back to one’s childhood?

12. Does the narrator make the right choice by leaving Denoon and Africa? Is she correct in thinking Denoon had suffered a nervous breakdown and become “insanely passive,” an “impostor,” after his ordeal in the desert? Or did Denoon have a genuinely mystical experience?

13. After she returns to the United States, the narrator writes, “Being in America is like being stabbed to death with a butter knife by a weakling” [p. 470]. What does she mean by this? What does this characterization suggest about the differences between life in Africa and America? Why would her life in Africa incline her to experience America in this way?

14. At the end of the novel, after she has returned to the states, the narrator argues that the major affliction of our age is “corporatism unbound.” She goes on to say “What is becoming sovereign in the world is not the people but the limited liability corporation . . . that’s what’s concentrating sovereign power to rape the world and overenrich the top minions who run these entities”; and, finally she asserts that the “true holocaust in the world is the thing we call development . . . the superimposition of market economies on traditional and unprepared third world cultures” [p. 471]. Have events in the past decade, in the United States and around the world, confirmed or refuted these arguments?

15. Mating ends with the narrator asserting that she is going back to Africa? Why does she make this decision? Why does Rush choose to end the novel in this way?

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Mating 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed this book a great deal. It is interesting that the 1st reviewer makes the point that these characters are white and therefore cannot possibly have anything to offer an African. Anyway, be that as it may, this was a good story with a lot of interesting ideas about developement, Africa, male -female relations and conflicts, western civ vs, pastoral communities, socialism vs. capitalism and more. I have several other thoughts about this book. The vocabulary sent me to the dictionary frequently, it is a woman's story written by a man, and we never find out the woman's name in the book in spite of her being the narrator and main character.
Guest More than 1 year ago
the idea of a white man creating a utopian community for african women is troubling enough. the relentless pursuit of his affections by an intellectual female is even more so. and the fact that their conversations are solely ideological and peppered with foreign phrases makes slogging through this novel a misadventure in pretention and tedium. this is a love story of unappealing and unreal and unsexy characters.
janewylen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is one of my favorite books. I have read it three times. The protagonist seems so real to me that I feel as if I am inhabiting her skin, in spite of the fact that we have dissimilar personalities -- our weaknesses and strengths are not at all the same. The protagonist's dogged perseverance leads her to take on huge, dangerous challenges. She can be secretive with others, but she is always honest to herself.Most of the story takes place in an African community based on matriarchy and many ingenious traditions and inventions for the ordinary actions of living. The inventor of this community is a famous, strong, intensely intellectual white man, motivated by a genuine need to create a living example of his talents -- to create a living example of his anthropological beliefs about people. However, at the end, his need to let his experiment evolve naturally makes him accept his downfall as community leader.
citygirl on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a book I read over a period of nine years. I read it so slowly because I wanted it to never end and because even a few pages can give the reader so much to work with. The narrator is a bit unusual, in the sense that she is a highly analytical woman who observes her own love affair in an almost clinical fashion. However the tone does not detract from the power of the story and the affair, although one based on intellectual attraction, is not a dispassionate one. Additionally, the description of Africa from the viewpoint of an outsider is a tricky proposition and so is a female protagonist from a male writer; I think Rush avoids condescension here. I love this book. It is one of the most intelligent, erudite and thought-provoking I have ever read. It is probably flawless.
lyzadanger on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is not a book for the impatient. Dense, demanding and highbrow, Norman Rush's National Book Award-winning novel about an obsessive academic chasing idealized love in the Botswana bush of the early 1980s is both adorable and infuriating in its impenetrable cleverness. It took me over a month to read this book, which follows a thesis-stymied anthropologist from Stanford as she chases down political-activist-cum-revolution-figure Nelson Denoon, finding him and wooing him in his isolated feminist village experiment in the central Kalahari. This is Tsau, Denoon's somewhat implausible ideological refuge for maligned and mistreated women. Tsau is run as a regime that flips the typical Botswanan patriarchy—rendered both as a chauvinistic travesty and as a timeless, quaint culture that the Benighted White West was poisoning—on its head, granting landowning privileges and political clout exclusively to women.Tsau's veneer of utopia wears a bit thin as our protagonist—she remains, obnoxiously, unnamed—engages in pseudo-intellectual love games with her quarry (Denoon) and becomes wrapped up in Tsau's intrigues. The thoroughness with which Rush renders his heroine is impressive, perhaps the most thorough inner monologue I have ever seen a novelist give a first-person character of the opposite gender. From dysmenorrhea to maternal yearnings, Rush runs his protagonist through all of the necessary feminine paces. I looked for obvious absurdities in motives but couldn't exactly find any.To you, the reader, Norman Rush says: 'You'd better work as hard as I did.' (Of course, Rush would not use quotation marks or even paragraph breaks to denote dialog; that's your job, as reader, to decipher). Mating demands familiarity with all of the major liberal arts fields, from western philosophy to political theory. The vocabulary is borderline cruel, forcing me to keep a dictionary handy. Echt, adumbrate, lares, bouleversement, noetic, crescive, elenchus, divagate, apercus, anschluss, sessile—on nearly every page of the 500-page intellectual trial was a word I'd never even seen before. What was he thinking? Does he hate us? Maybe not, but you'd better be up to date on your categories of socialism and your grasp of Middlemarch and Latin phraseology. The real tragedy here is that there is extraordinary writing skill and some distinctly compelling plot that gets lost in the screaming academic fury of the book. Rush's understanding of 1980s South African politics and culture is admirable—he spent time there, and not just a dabble of time—and his sentences are often stunning. But the book is so cerebral as to chase away or otherwise flout most of its would-be readers.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
BIO: Muscular golden brown tom with gentle amber eyes. Once you get to know him, he will show his somewhat mischievous and fierce personality, but until then, will be reserved and quiet. Will defend the ones he cares about to the last breath. No Mate. Crush: May have feelings for Rainfall. Contact: Visit him at rocky slope result 1.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Tomcat with white fur and black fur in the shape of a cresent moon arownd his left eye. Likes having fun, talking and mating. Mate none. Crush none. Kits. None
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Name...... <p> Age twenty five moons <p> gender she cat <p> Rnk leader <p> Personality flirty, calm <p> Description se<_>xy orange and black cat, with a white tail tip, and beautiful green eyes <p> Mate none <p> Crush none <p> Kits none <p> Likes:mating and chatting with friends
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Alot..<p> But im able to lead a normal life.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
%5,% .f sd s
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You people are DISGUSTING!!! GO GET A LIFE. You two should be ashamed of yourselves, you pathetic excuses of humans and u disgusting wastes of life
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Growns and grows a pe.nis and becomes a hexat