Genius Baby may be the first serious contender for The Great American Novel since the 1920's. Genius Baby does for a model American character what the stories of Dostoevsky and Tolstoy did for the archetypal Russian characters or what Cervantes' Don Quixote did for the confused middle class Spanish seeker looking for a just social order. Genius Baby is a work of fiction deeply rooted in the reality of scientific research on human development, with especial attention to the beauty and flaws of representative samples of the American dream. We first meet the primary hero of the story, Richard Milton-Chu, in the memory of his father who is re-living Richard's immaculate birth. Richard is born in a modified Jacuzzi where the 97F degree water is pre-warmed, purified by ultra-violet light and refreshed so that the baby's birth is facilitated by both gravity and buoyancy. The modified Jacuzzi is fitted with a birthing stool and holders for everything needed by the mother and her assisting midwife so that when the time of birth comes, the room can be reduced to zero light, total darkness, so that the baby's eyes are t burned by harsh light. All of the baby's senses are respected, initially: light, sound, hard surfaces, odors, and temperature changes. Gradually the light is raised and the baby finds his mother's arms. But the umbilical cord is t snipped until it collapses, indicating that all of the baby's lungs, heart, and brain switches have been turned either on or off as coordinated by nature's own timers, and the baby can w breathe on his own and by his own free will -- t rudely jerked into what the baby perceives as peril. We next meet Richard twenty-three months later when several crises overtake his patent attorney father, his children's story writer mother, an inventive genius from Kenya, and two scholarly patent attorneys from France who discovered and partnered with the Kenyan genius. With the help of the French attorneys, the Kenyan genius developed a new energy device that converts solar energy to electrical energy at about four times the efficiency of current models. Consequently, greedy bureaucrats and energy industry capitalists get word of the invention and conspire to thwart its development at all costs. The villains enlist the assistance of a KGB-trained murder specialist and four misguided pawns from Albania. The plot of the story is open eugh to allow for the reader to observe the problems that a modern, intelligent father and mother have in trying to educate a child who is far more intelligent than they. The story evolves to include issues relating to slavery, America's number one curse, inter-racial marriage, class and caste in America and in the world, and the interplay of music with psychological health. The several endings obey the American vision of All's well that ends well, as long as some punishments are handed out for wrong thoughts and rewards exceed punishments.
Genius Baby is William Maxwell's first work of fiction. The ideas that form the bases of this story come from his living experiences in rural Arkansas where he was delivered by a midwife, who was intelligent enough to turn out the lights so that he was not blinded at birth; growing up in the desert of multi-cultural Arizona, and teaching and researching in the world's most diverse cultures, Korea, Nigeria, Fiji, and from having studied under some of the world's best minds at Oregon State, California, Oxford, and Harvard universities. The characters who make up the story may resemble heroes from the hundreds of science fiction stories he read as a high school student or the villains from a forgotten spy movie; their reality is archetypal but also nebulous. William Maxwell's most significant research studies include The Planning and Establishment of a Model Child Development Center in North Carolina which took the form of his doctoral project at Harvard; and his studies of how to raise the IQ's of six-year old children in Fiji. Those latter studies typically involved experienced teachers from the eleven nations then served by the University of the South Pacific experimenting with diverse methods in classrooms in the Suva, Fiji, area. The methods were nominated by the experienced teachers who typically had been teaching for twelve years and were returning to the University for advanced certification. The methods typically included mathematics tutoring, reading tutoring, medical checkups, excursions, playing various intellectual games, paper folding (or origami), novel musical experiences, and the like. The study repeated for four years established the fact that children's IQ scores as measured by typical IQ tests can be raised by as much as 19 points in a semester. The results were published in refereed journals in Britain and America and in a major academic book, Thinking: The Expanding Frontier. Philadelphia: Franklin Institute Press (1983), now owned by Lawrence E. Erlbaum, Publishers.