Sunday, March 23, 2008

James Morrow

James Morrow interviewed James Morrow about his new book, The Philosopher’s Apprentice.

Among the exchanges:

Q: Your new novel, The Philosopher’s Apprentice, has an intriguing title. Who is the philosopher and who is the apprentice?

A: The philosopher is Mason Ambrose, a graduate student at a thinly disguised Boston University who believes he has teased an ethical system out of Darwin’s theory of evolution. During his dissertation defense, Mason crashes and burns, but he still makes a favorable impression on one member of the audience: the emissary of a reclusive biologist named Edwina Sabacthani. The next thing Mason knows, he’s been hired to fly to a remote tropical island and teach his “morality curriculum” to Edwina’s beautiful adolescent daughter Londa — the apprentice of the title — who is evidently an amnesiac with a severely defective conscience.

Q: Does Mason succeed in giving Londa a moral compass?

A: He succeeds all too well. It turns out that Londa’s psyche is really a tabula rasa, a blank slate, and so she ends up taking Mason’s morality curriculum — lessons drawn from Plato, Epicurus, Stoicism, Kant, and the Gospels — rather more seriously than anyone intended. The poor young woman never figures out that she isn’t supposed to really believe the Sermon on the Mount. And so, when she ventures forth from her tropical utopia, she can’t help trying to remake our fallen world in her own morally charged image. Naturally this is a recipe for disaster.
Read the full Q & A.

The Page 69 Test: The Philosopher’s Apprentice.

--Marshal Zeringue