Today: Books in the Park

Move over Stockley Gardens, this book blogger wants something to read.  I need a break from wandering the library, trying to find something recent but not 50 Shades of Grey.  Goodreads reviews aren’t motivating me to pick up a book, either – there’s too much subterfuge in both one and five-star directions.  I want to meet the authors.  What was the passion behind this plot, that character, this dialogue.  This afternoon, I’ll be wandering around Norfolk’s downtown waterfront, taking in all of the books and potentially grilling (ahem, interviewing) authors for my next series of blog posts. 

From noon to 4, the literary world converges for the 5th annual Books in the Park.  While the billing of this event is confusing, these events appear listed under the larger Embrace the Culture: Indie Music and Arts Festival, I’ll be there nonetheless.  Find me sitting on a couch next to a stack of books and eating food truck fare. 

What would you do if your world fell apart while your husband was rocketing to the moon?  Share your thoughts in person with Norfolk’s own, Lydia Netzer, author of the to-the-moon-and-back love story Shine Shine Shine.  This stunning debut novel has been featured as People Magazine’s People Pick, an Amazon Pick for the Summer and listed on the Indie Next List for August.  Netzer will be available to discuss her thoughts on robots, motherhood and her recent New York Times Op Ed “The Man in the Moon” detailing why we should travel to Mars (hint:  it’s better than flush toilets and the printing press).


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

Make Your Mother’s Day SHINE SHINE SHINE

Your mother is carrying more burdens than you know.  Let her know you love her just the way she is with this gift basket inspired by Lydia Netzer’s debut novel, SHINE SHINE SHINE.  Accompanying the glittery ARC are a bald Barbie, a whiteboard with mathematically inspired Mother’s Day sentiments, a red dry-erase marker, a toy astronaut, an autism-awareness puzzle piece and an imitation Mont Blanc pen.  Your mother will SHINE SHINE SHINE when you give her this unique gift.