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The Metaphysical Touch

The Metaphysical Touch

(1998)
A novel by

 
As its title suggests, The Metaphysical Touch is a kind of disembodied romance, in which boy meets girl on an entirely abstract basis. Even a decade ago, Sylvia Brownrigg's debut might have taken the form of an epistolary novel. Nowadays, though, such virtual flirtations take place on the Internet, which is exactly where Brownrigg's lovers meet. One of them, Emily "Pi" Piper, is a philosophy grad student who loses everything--including, alas, her dissertation on Kant--to the great Oakland-Berkeley blaze of 1991. The other, a depressive Oblomovian type named JD, is busily uploading an extended suicide note, which even he recognizes as a melodramatic move: "I do know how self-indulgent this is, by the way. Writing and posting all this, treating the world on the Net like it's my therapist."

The very anonymity of online romance tends to bring out the saucier side of many correspondents (not to mention novelists.) But Brownrigg, a former philosophy student herself, is clearly interested in the epistemological kinks of the relationship. What can we know about another person? How cleanly can mind and body be divided? It's no accident that has Pi fastened onto idealism's heaviest hitter:
Pi's dissertation was to have been on Kant's metaphysics--on his stark, wisdom-starred vision of what was knowable in the world and what lay beyond the knowable. As a graduate student you had to read around, be ready to teach anything from the ethics of euthanasia to Pythagoras' transmigration of souls; but Pi's loyalty was to Kant. Her heart was floating out there with the German idealist, in the pure ether of thought, in the deep space of his noumenal realm.
JD is no professional Kantian, yet his solipsistic explorations surely qualify him as an enlightened amateur. The stage is set, then, for a long-distance love match. But despite Brownrigg's many gifts--including a fine eye for detail and an elegant, agile style--her narrative catches fire only intermittently. The main problem is that neither Pi nor JD ever quite makes it out of the noumenal realm. The lovers remain abstractions, without the sort of flesh-and-blood Dasein that would make us want to follow their adventures for almost 400 pages. There are, as always, the consolations of philosophy--but in this case, they're not quite consoling enough. --William Davies

 
Used availability for Sylvia Brownrigg's The Metaphysical Touch


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Hardback Editions

January 1998 : USA Hardback
Title: The Metaphysical Touch: A Novel
Author(s): Sylvia Brownrigg
ISBN: 0-374-19965-5 / 978-0-374-19965-4 (USA edition)
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   

October 1998 : UK Hardback
Title: The Metaphysical Touch
Author(s): Sylvia Brownrigg
ISBN: 0-575-06653-9 / 978-0-575-06653-3 (UK edition)
Publisher: Victor Gollancz Ltd
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   

Paperback Editions

June 2000 : USA Paperback
Title: The Metaphysical Touch: A Novel
Author(s): Sylvia Brownrigg
ISBN: 0-312-26357-0 / 978-0-312-26357-7 (USA edition)
Publisher: Picador
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   Amazon CA   

January 2000 : UK Paperback
Title: The Metaphysical Touch
Author(s): Sylvia Brownrigg
ISBN: 0-7538-0849-8 / 978-0-7538-0849-8 (UK edition)
Publisher: Phoenix
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   

October 1999 : UK Paperback
Title: The Metaphysical Touch
Author(s): Sylvia Brownrigg
ISBN: 0-575-40187-7 / 978-0-575-40187-7 (UK edition)
Publisher: Phoenix
Availability: Amazon   Amazon UK   



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