Mating
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Mating

3.81 of 5 stars 3.81  ·  rating details  ·  2,292 ratings  ·  308 reviews
The narrator of this splendidly expansive novel of high intellect and grand passion is an American anthropologist at loose ends in the South African republic of Botswana. She has a noble and exacting mind, a good waist, and a busted thesis project. She also has a yen for Nelson Denoon, a charismatic intellectual who is rumored to have founded a secretive and unorthodox uto...more
Paperback, 496 pages
Published September 1st 1992 by Vintage (first published September 3rd 1991)
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Community Reviews

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Stephen
A 55 year-old man writing as a 32 year-old woman is a conceit that seems destined to fail. But the narrative voice overwhelms you with its startling combination of neurotic insecurity, hyper-literary pretension and genuine academic insight. About a third of the way I began to wonder if I hadn't stumbled across some sort of post-Nabokovian masterpiece.

Then begins the heart of the story, which details her infatuation and love affair with a boring, quasi-messianic, intellectual narcissist. At this...more
Tim
Not a full review, just a few thoughts in the moment of rereading...first of all, it is still somewhat jarring how different this is from Whites, his short story collection, although there are traces of the novel in the earlier collection--an analogy of Dubliners straight to Ulysses while bypassing Portrait might be apt, not in terms of experimentation with language but in terms of density of thought, consciousness. Midway through this rereading, I am struck not so much by how much richness Rush...more
Jess
I think the author was trying to see how many fancy SAT words he could fit into one book. He fit in a lot, and it was meh.
Alexandra
Sep 27, 2007 Alexandra rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: women and men.
Maybe I am shallow and narrow and lack the brainpower to fully appreciate this book, but to me it is the best love story. I reference it mentally almost everyday. To cross the Kalahari for the mere chance for a connection! To be a planless drifter in Africa--to be too cutting and smart and still see this chance for love. She is my hero. Endlessly quotable. And the end cracked my heart. I'm gifting it to a boy who would do well to heed Nelson Denoon's example.
Marjorie
This book was really engrossing, at the same time it basically presented me with a vocabulary lesson unlike no other. Literally--I finally just started keeping a list of the words I didn't know, because cracking the dictionary every time got to be chore. It became an exercise in picking up meaning from context. And *still* it was an utterly fabulous read.

Imagine my amusement when right after revisiting Mating after many years due to putting together my Goodreads list, I came across it discussed...more
Megha

Cover Design: The design on the cover is a detail from Hieronymus Bosch's painting The Garden of Earthly Delights. (Middle panel, blue globe in the middle of the lake.)

The Garden of Earthly Delights

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Jafar
This is the story of a cerebral, overanalyzing woman who doesn’t want the mediocre or the nearly-great and sets her eyes on the one great man that she finds. She’s an anthropology student, working in Botswana on a failed dissertation. He’s an overachieving and well-known intellectual who’s running an experimental matriarchal-utopian village in the middle of the Kalahari. She risks her life to get to him – to get to the “intellectual love.” What follows is an insanely good introspective and analy...more
John
A brilliant exploration of the limits of human analysis in the face of natural forces. Along with Infinite Jest and Middlemarch, one of the few books I've read that are so impossibly intelligent they seem written by a higher life form. Yes, the vocabulary level seems pretty insane, but given the narrator's education level and insecurity, is completely appropriate.
Koharjones
Aug 21, 2007 Koharjones rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: folks interested in "international development"
I fall on the love side for this book.
First, a confession: I read it after spending a semester in a West African nation studying that nebulous concept of "international development." Power, powerless, white black man woman city farmer, lack of water underlying all attempts at societal change.
This book expounds (propounds? sermonizes) on one man's vision of development, as viewed by an enamored woman, in a much more readable manner than the text book that was assigned to me that semester did. We...more
Wendy
This is one of my favorite books, but I am afraid to read it again and am always afraid to recommend it to other people. Many people dislike it, and it's certainly extremely pretentious. I think it mostly depends on whether you understand and buy that the character is pretentious. I don't know - when I read it, it rang true, particularly the main character's relationship with her ambitions, her strange relationship, and her body.
Vincent Saint-Simon
Dear Sirs and Madams,

This book could have easily received five stars if Mr. Rush knew how to stick a landing.

M,

V
Sps
Most pages of this book contain not only wondrous English but also some French and Latin, with frequent use of Setswana and Afrikaans, though there is a glossary for the latter two. In fact the verb venir on the last page changed my understanding of the whole preceding novel. So, ok, read it with the your Larousse and your OED (which should also serve for the Latin) at your side.


Much later-
After reading Mortals now too, the passages in here that are directly 'about' mating stand out:
What was no
...more
Jenny
Jan 21, 2011 Jenny rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Jenny by: Sps
Shelves: character, language
Mating is super smart. On every page, Rush casually name-drops obscure philosophers, touches on long-standing academic debates, and refers to brainy books. It makes you feel smart when you get one (Like, wow! I got that Wallace Stevens reference!), but it makes you feel dumb when you don’t (WTF does perihelion mean again?). Reading this is like reading the encyclopedia, except with more funny. It did feel a little pretentious at times but it taught me words like evaginated, which does not mean w...more
Erika
I did not expect to be giving this book only three stars. It had a lot going for it-- first of all, the fact that the narrator is a neurotic, egregiously overeducated female doctoral student adrift on another continent with a floundering dissertation and a nagging feeling of emptiness certainly made the book easy to relate to (indeed, Rush pulls off the female voice, and particularly the female graduate student voice, so well ) Furthermore, the sparkling effervescence of the prose, bubbling over...more
Jeremy
Mating shouldn't work on any level. A first person narrative about a young failing female anthropologist falling in love with an older American man who has founded an egalitarian feminist commune in the heart of Southern Africa is just too cutely exotic, too cheaply high concept to work.

But somehow, Norman Rush manages to make her and her narration into a stunning reflection and examination of intellectual and romantic life. Like a lot of other "big" novels from the 1990's, Mating touches on a d...more
Holly
I adored this book. I couldn't stand for it to end (but I do know Rush has others, thank goodness!). There are so many ideas in this book - rich w/ thoughts, and all are so human and accessible and fascinating. On some levels it's like reading a book about yourself, no matter where you fit in... human anthropology, why we are attracted to certain people, the history of religion and where it fits, socialism, wealth/poverty, male/female, silence/noise...it's all there! The language is dense and co...more
Mara
"It always surprised me how few pygmalious, polymathic men had ever been interested in sprucing me up, given that I'm so interested and available, and that, as everyone notices first about me, I remember everything."

I do love our unnamed narrator, uncomfortably, the way one loves a friend who grows tedious gushing about her new love. I love that I had to look up words and that even if I can never say "inter pocula" to describe someone who is inebriated without feeling a little pretentious, it's...more
Tuck
oh, this is just a great novel. about love, and trying to fall in it. and how difficult that can be, when its not ridiculously easy that is.
fucking a, national book award is blogging a book a day (just read "the hair of harold roux" which is a great novel) and now i cant stop reading national book award winners
Lobstergirl
May 15, 2009 Lobstergirl rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommended to Lobstergirl by: Julie
Shelves: fiction
This is one of those books like Donna Tartt's The Secret History that everyone else loved and raved about and I hated. I can't remember a thing about it though (read it 15 years ago).
Marcelo
An absolute revelation, a truly original book that never goes where you expect it to. I was so excited about this book halfway through that I started looking up other works by Rush, reading some of his earlier short stories and now looking forward to reading "Mortals" - I just couldn't believe i had never heard of him, to be honest. The voice is so distinctive and real, it holds your interest throughout. The parallel stories - that of the narrator's personal relationship with a man she's obsesse...more
Ryan
Get this: a male author and female protagonist team up to discuss -- what else? -- male and female relationships.

It sometimes seems like authors don't pay much attention to barriers between the reader, the narrator, and the author these days. In Norman Rush, we have an author who is more than prepared to have a bit of fun with the distance between the author and reader.

So when the narrator talks about how she approaches relationships with men, I couldn't help wondering whether her thoughts repre...more
Ann
Somehow I missed reading “Mating” when it first came out in 1991, but I am so glad that I found it and discovered author Norman Rush. This is one of the best and most honest explorations of adult love that I have ever read.
The story is set in Botswana in 1980s. The narrator, a young female anthropologist, has come to work on her thesis on nutrition among the tribes, but it’s not going well. She’s wondering whether to go back to Stanford and regroup when she attends a lecture by an interesting in...more
Emily
Have a dictionary handy when you go to it. Sometimes the wordplay, especially the use of different languages, is amusing and witty. Sometimes it bears down on you and you just wonder why that word has to be there.

I enjoyed the world it all took place in - fascinating inventions and culture. The anthropology and philosophy discussions started out fine but got tiring towards the end. I don't want to understand everything each character does based on some thing that happened in his or her childhoo...more
Sarah B.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Sara
"I grew up clinging to the idea that either I was original in an unappreciated way or that I could be original - this later - by incessant striving and reading and taking simple precautions like never watching television again in my life."

'Mating' is a difficult novel to pin down. Oddly enough for a book that concerns itself with anthropology, it refuses to allow itself to be defined or categorized in any clear way. It's a romance, one written in a dynamic, spirited female voice, which I appreci...more
Susan
This book has all the elements that really could qualify it as my favorite book. First, wonderful use of language and real authenticity. The main character is a female doctoral candidate and I honestly checked the front of the book a couple of times thinking I'd mis-read the author's name as "Norma" not "Norman" because of the authenticity of the female voice. I also love to learn more about Africa, and the reader learns loads about Botswana here. Of course, my main qualification for a top book...more
Sarah
Apr 21, 2008 Sarah rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommended to Sarah by: Brian Simms
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Alan
There were many interesting aspects to this long and difficult novel. It was written by a male, but the narrator was female. I find in most cases this never works; however somehow this does. It was set mostly in Africa about an Anthropologist trying to start a female-centric community against all the norms of the existing culture. It touched on the geo-politics of South Africa during Apartheid and the inherent tensions of western culture imposing certain ideals on a developing nation. In so many...more
Christien
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Andrea
Mating gets my award for best dominant female character ever. Such an intelligent book, and the only one of late that I have found myself looking up multiple words per page. Best read with an e-reader! Sometimes the interspersed Latin and French (and other languages) gets a bit tedious and overdone, but mostly its pure candy. Especially titillating for anyone working in development, no doubt greater depth in social theory and/or this region (Botswana) would render it even more so. 'Subtle Bodies...more
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THIS BOOK IS SO DENSE!! 2 49 Dec 03, 2008 02:43PM  
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Norman Rush (born October 24, 1933 in Oakland, California) is an American novelist whose introspective novels and short stories are set in Botswana in the 1980s. He is the son of Roger and Leslie (Chesse) Rush. He was the recipient of the 1991 National Book Award and the 1992 Irish Times/Aer Lingus International Fiction Prize for his novel Mating.

Rush was born in San Francisco and graduated from S...more
More about Norman Rush...
Mortals Subtle Bodies Whites Tropic Moon The Victim

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