I was totally mesmerized by Norman Rush’s spectacular novel Mating, winner of the 1991 National Book Award, but seeing a big surge in popularity now over 30 years later, even though its basic plot points seem like it could be a tough sell—the narrator, an unnamed female anthropologist adrift in Botswana pursues another anthropologist, Nelson Denoon, rumored to be setting up a utopian, matriarchal community in a remote Kalahari desert village. Smart, provocative, and brilliantly written, reading it now in 2023 is still an exhilarating experience, for there is much to admire here for readers who take the life of the mind seriously—the novel’s big intellectual sweep, its stimulating ideas on feminism, love, politics, race, language and anthropology, a proto-feminist novel written by a man that deals with the rituals of courtship and “mating” that expand beyond societal norms, a novel of ideas I’ve seen described as a “funny, smart love story about two people trying to discover what love between intellectual equals might look like.” Unafraid to tackle big ideas like the geopolitics of poverty, political utopianism, apartheid South Africa circa 1980, or the pitfalls of socialism, Mating uses extended dialogue and dense sentences (and a whole laundry list of obscure words which is quite fun!) to thrillingly explore the pitfalls and possibilities of both love and politics. In Mating Norman Rush has produced a truly great book that deserves to be read and admired. Ed loved and highly recommends!
NATIONAL BOOK AWARD WINNER • Is love between equals possible? This modern classic is a delightful intellectual love story that explores the deepest canyons of romantic love even as it asks large questions about society, geopolitics, and the mystery of what men and women really want.
“Luminous…Few books evoke the state of love at its apogee.” —The New York Times Book Review “The best rendering of erotic politics…since D.H. Lawrence…The voice of Rush’s narrator is immediate, instructive and endearing.” —The New York Review of Books
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 compelling 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 utopian society in a remote corner of the Kalahari—one in which he is virtually the only man.
What ensues is an exhilarating quest and an exuberant comedy of manners: “A dryly comic love story about grown-up people who take the life of the mind seriously.” —Newsweek
About the Author
Norman Rush is the author of four works of fiction: Whites, a collection of stories, and three novels, Subtle Bodies, Mating, and Mortals. His stories have appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and Best American Short Stories. Mating was the recipient of the National Book Award. Rush and his wife live in Rockland County, New York.
“Exhilarating…vigorous and luminous…Few books evoke the state of love at its apogee.” –The New York Times Book Review
“The best rendering of erotic politics…since D.H. Lawrence…a marvelous novel, one in which a resolutely independent voice claims new imaginative territory…The voice of Rush’s narrator is immediate, instructive and endearing.” –The New York Review of Books
“Witty, raunchy…prodigiously aspiring…a remarkable book…His protagonist is a memorable female character: a continually shifting prism that revolves from dashing to needy, from witty to morose…wonderfully varied and pungent.” –Los Angeles Times Book Review
“A dryly comic love story about grown-up people who take the life of the mind seriously and know they sometimes sound silly…Mating is state-of-the-art artifice.” –Newsweek
“It draws the reader steadily in. Not toward the heart of darkness but toward brilliant illumination.”-The New York Times
“Bold and ambitious…delightful, provocative.”–San Francisco Chronicle
“Brilliantly written…utterly sui generis!...Rush has alerted us to the transfiguring power of passion…He deploys the narrative voice with…brio…wit and persuasiveness.”–Mirabella
“An audaciously clever novel with substance as well as flash.” –Detroit Free Press