The Beautiful Miscellaneous

The Beautiful Miscellaneous

Audiobook(CD - Unabridged)

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780786168064
Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Publication date: 06/28/2007
Edition description: Unabridged
Product dimensions: 6.36(w) x 6.77(h) x 1.19(d)

About the Author

Dominic Smith is the author of The Mercury Visions of Louis Daguerre. He is a former recipient of the Dobie Paisano Fellowship from the Texas Institute of Letters. His fiction has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and appeared in The Atlantic Monthly. He grew up in Australia and now lives in Austin, Texas. Please visit Dominic's website at www.dominicsmith.net.

Read an Excerpt

one
As far as near-death experiences go, mine was a disappointment. Nobright whirring tunnel or silver-blue mist, just a wave of white noise,a low-set squall coming from an unknown source. I was gone for ninetyseconds and spent the next two weeks in a coma. I sometimes imagine themoment when my miniature death ended and the coma began. I picture itlike emerging from a bath in absolute darkness.
I woke in a hospital room during the last week of July 1987. I was seventeen and it was the middle of the night. A series of machines stood around my bed, emitting a pale, luminous green. I stared at a heart monitor, mesmerized by the scintilla of my pulse moving across the screen. Tiny drops of clear liquid hovered, then fell inside an IV bag. Voices -- muffled and indistinguishable -- carried in from a corridor. I felt unable to call out. I lay there quietly, looking up at the ceiling, and waited for someone to confirm that I was back among the living.
Copyright © 2007 by Dominic Smith

Reading Group Guide

Introduction

At seventeen, Nathan Nelson is the mildly gifted son of a genius. Hisfather, Dr. Samuel Nelson, is a particle physicist whose three passionsin life are quarks, jazz, and uncovering Nathan's prodigious talents.Consequently, Nathan has spent his formative years in whiz-kid summercamps, taking trips to particle accelerators, and plotting simultaneousequations to the off-kilter riffs of Thelonious Monk. An only child,Nathan is painfully aware that he "swims like a tadpole in the deepestplace of the bell curve" and slouches through puberty looking for anescape from his parents' lofty dream.

Everything changes when Nathan is involved in a terrible accident. Aftera brief clinical death and a two-week coma, he awakens to find that hisperceptions of sight, sound, and memory have been irrevocably changed.The doctors and his parents fear permanent brain damage, but the truthof his condition is much more unexpected and leads to a renewed chancefor Nathan to find his place in the world.

Nathans father arranges for him to attend the Brook-Mills InstituteaMidwestern research center where savants, prodigies, and neurologicalmisfits are studied and their "talents" applied. Immersed in thisstrange atmospherewhere an autistic boy can tell you what day Christmasfalls on in 3026 but can't tie his shoelaces, where a medical intuitivecan diagnose cancer during a long-distance phone call with apatientNathan begins to unravel the mysteries of his new mind and triesto make peace with the crushing weight of his father's expectations.

Reading Group Guide for The Beautiful Miscellaneous

Questions and Topics for Discussion:

1. Nathan's parents seemto live apart from both outsiders and each other. Discuss Nathan's relationship to his parents. How are they connected to and disconnected from one another? Why do you think they keep a distance between themselves and people outside the family?

2. After the accident Nathan's father says, "This was not supposed to happen." (p. 65) What role does fate play in this novel? Was the accident "supposed" to happen?

3. Nathan's father says that Nathan's grandfather "thinks God's an old guy witha beard and an ulcer and a scoreboard." (p. 71) Nathan's father believes in a "unified field." (p. 70). What are Nathan's beliefs about God? Do his convictions change through the course of the book? How?

4. Synesthesia, Nathan's condition, is described as a blending of the senses. How does the author use sensory details in his writing to convey this condition?

5. Mozart, perhaps the most famous historical child prodigy, is mentioned earlyin the book as part of an experiment on rats. (p. 44) Identify and discuss the skills of the other prodigies at the Brooks-Mills Institute. Who is the most talented? Who is the most driven to use his or her talents? Why?

6. Toby asks Nathan what he is "in for," (p. 112) referring to the Brooks-MillsInstitute as if it was a jail. Is the Institute a kind of prison? If so, for which students? What benefits do they get from being at the Institute?

7. Nathan refers to silence as the "sound of not remembering." (p. 131) What does he mean by this? Soon after, Dr. Gillman says, "Forgetting is when things slip [out]. Not remembering is when you filter things out." (p. 132) Do you think he is right? Why or why not?

8. Dr. Gillman says to Nathan that knowledge is pointless unless you do something with it. Nathan asks in return, "Why does information have to be useful? Does music need to be useful?" (p. 133) Discuss their arguments. Who do you agree with?

9. Generally, Whit is interested in the world on a planetary scale while Nathan's father focuses on particle and subatomic science. Where do Nathan's interests fall in the scope of the universe?

10. Collision, whether it be particles, cars, or people arguing, plays a large role in the book. Which of the many sudden impacts, either physical or emotional, are the most important in the novel?

11. Toward the end of the story the author includes letters from Nathan to his father. Why? What do these letters reveal about Nathan that the author might not have been able to convey in another style of writing? How do these letters connect, compare, and contrast to Nathan's father letter to God?

12. At many times in the book Nathan is clearly the central character. His father, however, casts a long shadow over Nathan's life and the course of the novel. Who is the most powerful driving force of the action in the book?

13. What is the significance of Nathan's father's watch? What role does time play in the story?

14. Clyde Kaplansky says, "Memory can be the way back or the way forward." Whatdoes he mean by this? Do you think he is right? Why or why not?

15. What does Nathan learn after seeing Darius/Taro?

16. What is the meaning of the title The Beautiful Miscellaneous? Discussthe arc of the storyline. What is the central conflict? What is the rising action? What is the climax? Does it have one?

Tips to Enhance Your Reading Group

1. The Stanford Linear Accelerator is one of the world's leading research laboratories. Established in 1962 at Stanford University in Menlo Park, California, whose mission is to design, construct and operate state-of-the-art electron accelerators and related experimental facilities for use in high-energyphysics and synchrotron radiation research. Learn more about the center at: http://www.slac.stanford.edu/

2. The Davidson Institute at the University of Nevada (http://www.ditd.org/) is an example of a nonprofit school for America's gifted children. To learn moreabout how education for the gifted functions on a state by state basis visit:http://www.gt-cybersource.org/StatePolicy.aspx?NavID=4_0

3. Each year the USA Memory Championships are held. To learn more about the event or how to participate visit: http://usamemorychampionship.com/

Introduction

Introduction

At seventeen, Nathan Nelson is the mildly gifted son of a genius. Hisfather, Dr. Samuel Nelson, is a particle physicist whose three passionsin life are quarks, jazz, and uncovering Nathan's prodigious talents.Consequently, Nathan has spent his formative years in whiz-kid summercamps, taking trips to particle accelerators, and plotting simultaneousequations to the off-kilter riffs of Thelonious Monk. An only child,Nathan is painfully aware that he "swims like a tadpole in the deepestplace of the bell curve" and slouches through puberty looking for anescape from his parents' lofty dream.

Everything changes when Nathan is involved in a terrible accident. Aftera brief clinical death and a two-week coma, he awakens to find that hisperceptions of sight, sound, and memory have been irrevocably changed.The doctors and his parents fear permanent brain damage, but the truthof his condition is much more unexpected and leads to a renewed chancefor Nathan to find his place in the world.

Nathans father arranges for him to attend the Brook-Mills InstituteaMidwestern research center where savants, prodigies, and neurologicalmisfits are studied and their "talents" applied. Immersed in thisstrange atmospherewhere an autistic boy can tell you what day Christmasfalls on in 3026 but can't tie his shoelaces, where a medical intuitivecan diagnose cancer during a long-distance phone call with apatientNathan begins to unravel the mysteries of his new mind and triesto make peace with the crushing weight of his father's expectations.

Reading Group Guide for The Beautiful Miscellaneous

Questions and Topics for Discussion:

1. Nathan's parents seemto live apart from both outsiders and each other. Discuss Nathan's relationship to his parents. How are they connected to and disconnected from one another? Why do you think they keep a distance between themselves and people outside the family?

2. After the accident Nathan's father says, "This was not supposed to happen." (p. 65) What role does fate play in this novel? Was the accident "supposed" to happen?

3. Nathan's father says that Nathan's grandfather "thinks God's an old guy witha beard and an ulcer and a scoreboard." (p. 71) Nathan's father believes in a "unified field." (p. 70). What are Nathan's beliefs about God? Do his convictions change through the course of the book? How?

4. Synesthesia, Nathan's condition, is described as a blending of the senses. How does the author use sensory details in his writing to convey this condition?

5. Mozart, perhaps the most famous historical child prodigy, is mentioned earlyin the book as part of an experiment on rats. (p. 44) Identify and discuss the skills of the other prodigies at the Brooks-Mills Institute. Who is the most talented? Who is the most driven to use his or her talents? Why?

6. Toby asks Nathan what he is "in for," (p. 112) referring to the Brooks-MillsInstitute as if it was a jail. Is the Institute a kind of prison? If so, for which students? What benefits do they get from being at the Institute?

7. Nathan refers to silence as the "sound of not remembering." (p. 131) What does he mean by this? Soon after, Dr. Gillman says, "Forgetting is when things slip [out]. Not remembering is when you filter things out." (p. 132) Do you think he is right? Why or why not?

8. Dr. Gillman says to Nathan that knowledge is pointless unless you do something with it. Nathan asks in return, "Why does information have to be useful? Does music need to be useful?" (p. 133) Discuss their arguments. Who do you agree with?

9. Generally, Whit is interested in the world on a planetary scale while Nathan's father focuses on particle and subatomic science. Where do Nathan's interests fall in the scope of the universe?

10. Collision, whether it be particles, cars, or people arguing, plays a large role in the book. Which of the many sudden impacts, either physical or emotional, are the most important in the novel?

11. Toward the end of the story the author includes letters from Nathan to his father. Why? What do these letters reveal about Nathan that the author might not have been able to convey in another style of writing? How do these letters connect, compare, and contrast to Nathan's father letter to God?

12. At many times in the book Nathan is clearly the central character. His father, however, casts a long shadow over Nathan's life and the course of the novel. Who is the most powerful driving force of the action in the book?

13. What is the significance of Nathan's father's watch? What role does time play in the story?

14. Clyde Kaplansky says, "Memory can be the way back or the way forward." Whatdoes he mean by this? Do you think he is right? Why or why not?

15. What does Nathan learn after seeing Darius/Taro?

16. What is the meaning of the title The Beautiful Miscellaneous? Discussthe arc of the storyline. What is the central conflict? What is the rising action? What is the climax? Does it have one?

Tips to Enhance Your Reading Group

1. The Stanford Linear Accelerator is one of the world's leading research laboratories. Established in 1962 at Stanford University in Menlo Park, California, whose mission is to design, construct and operate state-of-the-art electron accelerators and related experimental facilities for use in high-energyphysics and synchrotron radiation research. Learn more about the center at: http://www.slac.stanford.edu/

2. The Davidson Institute at the University of Nevada (http://www.ditd.org/) is an example of a nonprofit school for America's gifted children. To learn moreabout how education for the gifted functions on a state by state basis visit:http://www.gt-cybersource.org/StatePolicy.aspx?NavID=4_0

3. Each year the USA Memory Championships are held. To learn more about the event or how to participate visit: http://usamemorychampionship.com/

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