David Plotz is deputy editor of the online magazine Slate. He lives in Washington, D.C., with his wife and two children. From the Hardcover edition.
Building on a series of articles he wrote for Slate, Plotz investigates the legacy of the Repository for Germinal Choice, a California sperm bank that was to have been stocked exclusively by Nobel laureates. Very few donors in the institution's 19-year run really had Nobels, and the one publicly acknowledged laureate was William Shockley, a notorious racist. Plotz has fun poking holes in the eugenic vision of the repository's founder, self-made millionaire Robert Graham, and his ambition to collect "the Godiva of sperm." More captivating, however, is Plotz's recounting of the efforts of the women who visited the repository to discover the identities of their donors. As he gets to know a cluster of families and donors, Plotz reaches insightful conclusions about the unforeseen emotional consequences of artificial insemination. The "reunions" his research helps bring about include the elderly scientist who adopts a grandfatherly role in a young girl's life and a teenager who takes his wife and infant son along to meet his "dad" and finds him sharing a house with Florida drug dealers. The attempt to breed genius babies may have an aura of surreal humor, but the sensitive narration always reminds us of the real lives affected-and created-through this oddball utopian scheme. B&w photos. Agent, Rafe Sagalyn. (On sale June 7) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Advance praise The Genius Factory
"The Genius Factory is a riveting account of a truly bizarre
episode in American history-Robert Graham's crusade to save the
human race. David Plotz has written a superb book about the quest
for genius, and, ultimately, family."
-Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point "I want to start a terrific writers sperm bank, and the first seed I want in the inventory is David Plotz's. Plotz has it all. He's an incredible, unstoppable reporter-unrelenting yet always fair and compassionate-and a deft, witty writer. Plotz's account of the Nobel Prize sperm bank is an absorbing, surprising, deeply human tale of deceit and megalomania, of hopes and dreams and eugenics gone wild."
-Mary Roach, author of Stiff "One part detective story, one part cultural snapshot, and one part just plain weird, the tale of California's infamous Nobel Prize sperm bank is unexpectedly enthralling. David Plotz gives us the science, the business, the ambitions, and most especially the people: from founders to donors to mothers and children. A marvelous and thoroughly engaging read."
-Atul Gawande, author of Complications
"If it weren't so disturbingly true, The Genius Factory would be a gripping work of science fiction. David Plotz's terrific reporting uncovers one man's quest to 'improve' the species and its complex, touching, troubling, very human repercussions."
-Stefan Fatsis, author of Word Freak: Heartbreak, Triumph, Genius, and Obsession in the World of Competitive Scrabble Players From the Hardcover edition.