SCOTT HUTCHINS / A Working Theory of Love
Co-hosted by the HuffingtonPost Book Club San Francisco
Help celebrate a wildly inventive, major literary debut about a disaffected man who learns – with the help of a sentient computer that speaks in his deceased father’s voice – to make peace not just with his past but with his future.
Settled back into the San Francisco singles scene following the implosion of his young marriage just months after the honeymoon, Neill Bassett is going
through the motions. His carefully modulated routine, however, is soon disrupted in ways he can’t dismiss with his usual nonchalance.
When Neill’s father committed suicide ten years ago, he left behind thousands of pages of secret journals, journals that are stunning in their detail, and, it must be said, their complete banality. But their spectacularly quotidian details were exactly what artificial intelligence company Amiante Systems was looking for, and Neill was able to parlay them into a job, despite a useless degree in business marketing and absolutely no experience in computer science. He has spent the last two years inputting the diaries into what everyone hopes will become the world’s first sentient computer. Essentially, he has been giving it language -- using his father’s words. Alarming to Neill -- if not to the other employees of Amiante -- the experiment seems to be working. The computer actually appears to be gaining awareness and, most disconcerting of all, has started asking questions about Neill’s childhood.
Amid this psychological turmoil, Neill meets Rachel…remains preoccupied by unresolved feelings for his ex-wife…and discovers a missing year in the diaries -- a year that must hold some secret to his parents’ marriage and perhaps even his father’s suicide. Everything Neill thought he knew about his past comes into question, and every move forward feels impossible to make.
Adam Johnson, author of The Orphan Master’s Son, writes, “Incandescent with humor and insight, Hutchins’s portrait of human longing falls as warm and slant across these pages as a California sunset. Original, wise, full of serious thinking, serious fun, and the shock of the new, this book is astonishing.”
And Gary Shteyngart, author of Super Sad True Love Story and Absurdistan, writes, “A brainy, bright, laughter-through-tears, can’t-stop-reading-until-it’s-over kind of novel. Fatherless daughters, mother-smothered sons, appealing ex-wives, mouthy high school drop-outs—damn, this book’s got something for everyone!"
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Scott Hutchins, a Truman Capote Fellow in the Wallace Stegner Program at Stanford, received his MFA from the University of Michigan. His work has appeared in StoryQuarterly, The Rumpus, The New York Times, and Esquire. He currently teaches at Stanford.