He simultaneously tells the story of his relationship with the girlfriend he left in Holland, and about a grad student he has a bizarre crush on. These parts of the book were less engaging - though I enjoyed the autobiographical aspects about the writing of his previous books.
As usual, Powers' writing is great. A few of my favorite lines/paragraphs:
What was I supposed to do for the rest of my life? The rest of the afternoon alone seemed unfillable. I went shopping. As always, retail left me with an ice-cream headache. (p32)
Though Taylor, I discovered how a book both mirrored and elicited the mind’s unreal ability to turn inward upon itself. (p141)
It occurred to me: awareness no more permitted its own description than life allowed you a seat at your own funeral. Awareness trapped itself inside itself. The function of consciousness must be in part to dummy up and shape a coherence from all competing, conflicting subsystems that processed experience. By nature, it lied. Any rendition we might make of consciousness would arise from it, and was thus about as reliable as the accused serving as sole witness for the prosecution. (p 218)
I picked up an old microscope at a flea market in Verona…. I showed him where to put his eye. I watched him, thinking, this is how we attach to existence. We look through awareness’s tube and see the swarm at the end of the scope, taking what we come upon there for the full field of sight itself. (p226)