The Genius of the World

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Zoland Books, 2000 - Fiction - 305 pages
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Ira Stein is a brilliant, troubled boy who repudiated everything his grandfather stood for and turned to Buddha. Abby Stein, Nobel Prize-winning physicist, was present as they detonated the first atomic bomb. Twenty-six years later he visits his grandson, dying of cancer at the age of twenty-one. He is incensed by Ira's inner calm and acceptance. Ira's sister Phoebe is the fulcrum on which these two poles of the family teeter back and forth. "The Genius of the World" is a sensitive and spiritual novel about bridging the gap between faith and reason.

""The Genius of the World" is a shattering story told with astonishing insight and redemptive clarity. This bold novel is a journey of the body and the spirit."-Melanie Rae Thon

"This is a compassionate and beautifully written first novel. It is a fine and sensitive portrait of an idiosyncratic family confronting the ironies and inevitabilities of fate."-Tony Eprile

An excerpt: Phoebe, 1976


This is my theory: everyone everywhere is lying almost all the time. I am anyway.

Example. Wrote to Ira today. Told him I was happy. Told him I was beginning to see the Buddha nature, the good, in everyone and this was making me feel good.

Bull shit. I'm not seeing the Buddha nature. I'm seeing everyone's alive and oblivious to the privilege. I see that they're alive and he's going to die. I can't forgive all these blind people; can't forgive Ira for going about so calmly as if it's all a lie.No one here to talk to. No one. Joanne tries, but I can't stand her tucked up in her desk chair like a cat, elbows on the desk and those reading glasses with the narrow rectanglesreducing me in their lenses. Extending her forearms, she clasps her hands, leans her elbows on her propped thighs and peers at me over the rims. I swear it's some shrink trick she learned from her father. So obvious, so fake. She's only nineteen.

"How is your brother?" she asks in that whispery, throaty voice she's been cultivating all semester ("People tell me I sound like Greta Garbo," she says. In your dreams.)

That's my cue to cry, I know. To eject myself into her waiting arms, pay her her due. I stay put. N

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Ira 19581961 a
Phoebe 19681971

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About the author (2000)

Jane Holden Kelley, a professor of archaeology at the University of Calgary, is the author of Yaqui Women: Contemporary Life Histories (1978), also a Bison Book. Her father, William Curry Holden, a trained historian and anthropologist, met the Yaqui narrator of this chronicle, Rosalio Moisés, in 1934. They remained close friends until Moisés's death in 1969.

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