Sunday, March 4, 2012

"The Technologists"

Matthew Pearl is the author of the novels The Dante Club, The Poe Shadow, The Last Dickens, and his newest work, The Technologists. His books have been New York Times bestsellers and international bestsellers translated into more than 30 languages. His nonfiction writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Boston Globe, and He has been heard on shows including NPR's "All Things Considered" and "Weekend Edition Sunday," and his books have been featured on Good Morning America and CBS Sunday Morning.

Pearl applied the Page 69 Test to The Technologists and reported the following:
From page 69:
"If I could but live to see it, I hope that we might make a small but important accomplishment: that our institution be understood rather than feared so that our students can step forward into the world outside and proudly call out a promise, 'We are Technology.' ... If I could but live to see it," Rogers repeated, in softer tones, his eyes meeting Marcus's as the student perched back on the edge of his stool. For a moment, it seemed they were the only two present, and that they were testing each other.
In this scene, William Barton Rogers, the founder of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, meets with his faculty to discuss a series of scientific disasters that are plaguing Boston. Our protagonist Marcus is one of the first students, part of the Class of 1868 which had been busy enough preparing to graduate when everything seemed to go haywire around them. Marcus is a "charity scholar," picked out from a factory floor to attend the experimental and controversial M.I.T. Instead of tuition, Marcus performs various functions for the college, including attending to the needs of the professors at faculty meetings like this
one. This is a pivotal moment for Marcus, internalizing the words Rogers says, presumably not to him but to the faculty members, as a call to action. Will Marcus decide to enter the dangerous path he has in mind, to investigate the unseen menace in Boston?

I love underdog stories. In this case something we associate with power, wealth and impact--technology--was thought to be a dead end pursuit. It made for an interesting reversal that, in my mind, makes great material for historical fiction.
Learn more about the author and his work at Matthew Pearl's website.

The Page 99 Test: The Poe Shadow.

The Page 99 Test: The Last Dickens.

--Marshal Zeringue