Artificial A love story

Amy Kurzweil

Book - 2023

A visionary story of three generations of artists whose search for meaning and connection transcends the limits of life. How do we relate to--and hold--our family's past? Is it through technology? Through spirit? Art, poetry, music? Or is it through the resonances we look for in ourselves? In Artificial, we meet the Kurzweils, a family of creators who are preserving their history through unusual means. At the center is renowned inventor and futurist Ray Kurzweil, who has long been saving the documents of his deceased father, Fredric, an accomplished conductor and pianist from Vienna who fled the Nazis in 1938. Once, Fred's life was saved by his art: an American benefactor, impressed by Fred's musical genius, sponsored his emi...gration to the United States. He escaped just one month before Kristallnacht. Now, Fred has returned. Through AI and salvaged writing, Ray is building a chatbot that writes in Fred's voice, and he enlists his daughter, cartoonist Amy Kurzweil, to help him ensure the immortality of their family's fraught inheritance. Amy's deepening understanding of her family's traumatic uprooting resonates with the creative life she fights to claim in the present, as Amy and her partner, Jacob, chase jobs, and each other, across the country. Kurzweil evokes an understanding of accomplishment that centers conversation and connection, knowing and being known by others. With Kurzweil's signature humanity and humor, in boundary-pushing, gorgeous handmade drawings, Artificial guides us through nuanced questions about art, memory, and technology, demonstrating that love, a process of focused attention, is what grounds a meaningful life --

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BIOGRAPHY/Kurzweil, Amy
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Graphic novels
Autobiographical comics
Biographical comics
New York, N.Y. : Catapult 2023.
Main Author
Amy Kurzweil (author)
First Catapult edition
Physical Description
329 pages, 28 unnumbered pages : illustrations ; 27 cm
  • Pattern recognition
  • Immortal virtue
  • How do you know?
  • To eat and drink
  • Heartstrings
  • Through the looking glass
  • Exponential growth
  • Con espressione e semplice.
Review by Booklist Review

Amy Kurzweil's debut memoir, Flying Couch (2016), featured her maternal lineage. Her latest highlights her paternal ancestry: she's deep in conversation and collaboration with her father, AI guru Ray Kurzweil--he's famous for his technological singularity prediction, which describes when computers become smarter than humans--to better understand her grandfather, Frederic Kurzweil. A gifted pianist, composer, and conductor, Vienna-born Fred escaped the Nazis in 1938 through the intervention of a wealthy American admirer. His immigrant life was marked with struggle; he died at 57 in 1970, 16 years before Amy's birth. For decades, Ray hoarded his father's documents and, with Amy Kurzweil's assistance, he's compiled the information to create an "avatar" of a man he lost too early: "If it's really done well, I could develop a relationship with it that's similar to the relationship I did have," he muses. While exploring potential immortality with her father, Amy Kurzweil intertwines glimpses of her partner--his illness, their geographies, their future. Even as she presents complicated concepts (because technology--and Kurzweil!), she deftly enables accessible understanding. Her inviting art is as intricate as photos and screenshots (because technology---and Kurzweil!) and as simple as a few lines. Panels vary throughout, with and without borders, in size and placement, as if a literal reminder of unpredictability, regardless of preparedness. Answers are few, but the questions inspire imagination, invention, and intriguing interaction.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Part meditation on immortality, part profile of the author's father--inventor and artificial intelligence pioneer Ray Kurzweil--this finely crafted graphic family memoir from New Yorker cartoonist Kurzweil (Flying Couch) takes an intimate approach to philosophy. Ray, whose Jewish parents narrowly escaped Vienna during WWII, hopes to connect with his late musician father by creating an AI "Dadbot" derived from his somewhat cryptic journals. Though Amy's father is alive and much more knowable, there are parallels in her own pursuit to truly understand him and their shared legacies. Her comics convey echoes and meta-elements of the layered relationships between them all: an image of a skeleton hand repeated filmstrip-style is juxtaposed with her own hand holding a recording device; time spins on clock faces in a hospital waiting room; Amy's childhood photo, painted portrait, and emoji avatar populate the same page. Ray's obsessions come across as highly creative defense mechanisms. He believes information can translate to immortality, whereas Amy, who spends part of the narrative navigating a long-distance relationship with her boyfriend, an ethics professor, concludes that only love allows people to live forever. References range from Greek philosophers to Westworld, Pinocchio, and Alice in Wonderland. This melancholic yet loving investigation gets at how AI is as much about the past and what humanity has already created as it is about the future. (Oct.)

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Review by Kirkus Book Review

Kurzweil continues to expand the possibilities of the graphic memoir with an exploration of her patrilineal ancestors. Braiding together the stories of her paternal grandfather, an Austrian conductor and pianist who narrowly escaped Nazi-controlled Vienna, and her father, an early innovator in artificial intelligence research, New Yorker cartoonist Kurzweil, author of Flying Couch, navigates the complexities of recollecting and framing pieces of her family history. Pages expand with maximalist detail that reflects a true-to-life experience of digging into the past, where insights are dispersed between various family memories and physical artifacts often nestled in dusty storage facilities. Stunningly re-created archival materials, from newspaper clippings to handwritten letters, lend visceral impact to each discovery. The story of the Kurzweil family's innate connection to the vanguard of technology also breaches questions of collective memory and the ways in which technology might become a new conduit for the voices of the past. When do our loved ones really pass into the beyond? Is it when they die or when those who remain no longer remember them? How much can we learn from what remains of our ancestors? An AI chatbot trained on the correspondences of her late grandfather becomes a sometimes-inadequate interlocutor for Kurzweil as she reflects on her own influences and navigates her family's desire to maintain a connection with the past. Nonetheless, these interactions bear fruit as new questions arise. Couched in the casual conversations among family and the genuine desire to connect and preserve specific memories, these inquiries avoid becoming overburdened by stodgy philosophical ramblings or overly enamored techno-proselytizing. The deeply personal and sometimes frenetic energy of the book delivers an intimate and cohesive vision of the past as well as life lived in the influence of parents and ancestors. Intimate reflections and powerful visual elements combine in an exemplary work of graphic nonfiction. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.