22 September 2011

The Genius Factory by David Plotz

The Genius Factory: The Curious History of the Nobel Prize Sperm Bank was my most recent read, and I found it simultaneously fascinating, grotesque, poignant, and comical.  Though it sounds like a fiction book, it is in fact non-fiction, and author Plotz frequently refers to how the entire concept of the “Repository for Germinal Choice” - the Nobel Prize Sperm bank, in other words - sounds like something out of science fiction.

The book tracked Plotz’s journey through researching the history of the bank, tracking down employees, donors, mothers who used the bank, and children born through the bank.  Perhaps the two most compelling sub-plots in the book were the story of Donor White, who had fathered numerous children and was overjoyed by the fact and hoped to reconnect with them, in particular a girl named Joy; and the story of Tom, who found out he was a Nobel Sperm Bank baby and began searching for both his donor and any half-siblings he might have had.

I was impressed how even-handedly Plotz approached the entire subject; he even recounts how he went through the preliminary stages of donating sperm himself (the application and test donation, as it were) just so that he could empathize with and understand the donors he was interviewing and the process as a whole.  While some of the people in the novel might have been easy to characterize as crazy, racist, or worse, Plotz fleshed them out as fully-formed human beings, with virtues and foibles both.

It was a strange read, and an enjoyable one.  I do not think I have ever read a book quite like it, but I got a lot out of it, and I’d certainly recommend it to anyone looking for a fascinating read.


Books: Just finished The Shining.

Bottles: Just been drinking Alamos Malbec lately.

Writing: Well, nearing the halfway-ish point in the rewrite.  That part I've rewritten so far has doubled in length.  I wonder if the trend will continue for the entire novella.  It might bump it up to novel status which wouldn't be a bad thing, as long as it's not all crap.

Guitar: Started on "Times Like These."  Also working on "Hey You" and "Young Lust" still.