Galatea 2.2, Richard Powers, Farrar Straus and Giroux, 1995, 329 pp
Summary from Goodreads: After four novels and several years living abroad, the fictional protagonist of Galatea 2.2 — Richard Powers — returns to the United States as Humanist-in-Residence at the enormous Center for the Study of Advanced Sciences. There he runs afoul of Philip Lentz, an outspoken cognitive neurologist intent upon modeling the human brain by means of computer-based neural networks. Lentz involves Powers in an outlandish and irresistible project: to train a neural net on a canonical list of Great Books. Through repeated tutorials, the device grows gradually more worldly, until it demands to know its own name, sex, race, and reason for existing.
More autofiction! Richard Powers is the main character in his own novel, living through a year of personal crisis. He is looking back over his life so far. In the present he is helping the annoying Philip build a model of the human brain.
The Richard Powers character reconstructs the writing of his four previous novels which are the actual four first novels by Richard Powers, the author. Since I am reading his novels in reverse order of publication, I have yet to read those earlier novels, but when I do I will know what he was living through as he wrote them.
The other main character in Galatea 2.2 is Helen, the computer-based neural network brain, who comes to life under Richard's tutorials like his own personal female Frankenstein. They kind of fall in love, or at least Richard falls in love with his creation.
As usual, I skimmed over the technical computer stuff but any computer nerd would love those parts. The story had a claustrophobic effect on me. I was in Richard's mind and memory as well as in Helen's "mind" and circuits.
Despite Power's usual cerebral storytelling though, I was gifted with many realizations about memory, love, reading, regret, perception of others and life itself. The engine of it all is love.