"The Wages of Genius" by Gregory Mone

Book Cover

Edward is a genius. Or at least he thinks he is. His academic advisorhas told him that his Ph.D. dissertation needs focus, and that Edwardneeds to stop flitting from one connection to another. Edward is given achance for a job with a new start-up internet company. He takes it, forlack of anything better to do.

The story is told solely through Edward, so if Edward doesn't knowsomething, neither do we. At first, it seems that Edward is like so manypeople in their twenties: preoccupied with himself and devoted totalking about theory and philosophy (although Edward's theory andphilosophy almost all revolve around physics and Einstein). Edward's jobis very undefined, and he calls himself the General Analyst. He seems todo nothing but think, and after six months still has not made acontribution to the company. Although his ideas may seem crazy at first,proper practical application of some of the ideas might render thecompany some profit. For example, Edward wants to apply the principal ofthe "golden triangle," where a person's eye first falls when looking ata painting, to internet advertising banners. Interesting theory,possibly practical. But Edward, it turns out, was simply a number, a wayof the company showing growth by hiring. When finances turn bad, he'sfired.

Edward's preoccupation with thinking interferes with everything. He"thinks" instead of listening to other people. He "thinks" away minutesat a time, not moving. But Edward doesn't seem like a genius; he parrotsother's ideas, but has none of his own. And he waivers from hisdestination, even if the destination is simply down the street. I havealways said that distraction was a sign of genius, but I may revisethat. In Edward's case, it's a sign of a failure to commit. Failure tocommit to anything, as though he were a ship with lots of wind in thesails, but no one at the rudder.

This is an odd book, but it made me re-think my relationship with myjob. And made me think better and worse of myself.

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