Yes, Sunny is an icon for the extreme struggles of motherhood, but what about her husband?

When MImageaxon Mann walks through the doorway of his home, his conscious thought is divided into a decision-tree.  If wife = scowling, then speak from the set {“What is wrong?”; “How can I help?”; “Let’s get take-out.”}.  Such logical reasoning drives Maxon’s very social existence.  The observational learning of childhood was lost to this somewhat robotic form of a man.  While most children learn how to interpret social situations with ease, Maxon has struggled to assign IF, THEN statements to social cues and their appropriate responses.  Throughout Lydia Netzer’s debut novel, SHINE SHINE SHINE, the underlying question emerges:  Can a robot love?

In Maxon’s world, love is defined by mathematically determined correct choices.  A man should be married.  Married men should be parents.  Therefore, a man should be a parent.  His love for Sunny follows a Marital Transitive Property of Equality.  Every puzzle piece in his highly functioning, possibly autistic, world has a mathematically defined place.  It’s easy to poke a little fun at this seemingly socially incompetent character, but Maxon shares with us frustrations of the male communicator.

My husband posted a picture on Facebook entitled “5 Deadly Terms Used by a Woman.”  Included in this set were “Fine,” “Nothing,” “Go Ahead,” “Whatever,” and “That’s O.K.”  This post was followed by several AMEN-type comments.  This comedic attempt to translate and routinize men’s (successful) communications with women shows the robot in every man in a relationship:  they just want to know the formula.  Maxon is simply every man, taken to the extreme.  For my robot, love is a decision, executed by pleasing choices.  What do I want?  I want my robot.  And yes, my robot can love.

NOTE:  The subtle irony here is that the equations written in SHINE SHINE SHINE  to desImagecribe Maxon’s inner thoughts were written by me, a woman.  When Lydia Netzer approached me to assign mathematical expressions to social interactions, I at first approached the request with a great bit of amusement.  As I gave the project some thought, I was surprised at how many social norms could be expressed with set theory and matrix expressions.  Netzer hit a big nail on the head:  our interactions are more mathematical than we think.


Lydia Netzer

St. Martin’s Press

July 2012

4 thoughts on “SHINE SHINE SHINE

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