An early Richard Powers novel (as in from 1988 before he was 30), about a family dominated by a loud, large, father. This novel is written from multiple viewpoints and narrators both third and first-person, and includes several short sections written from Powers’s voice dealing with the real life death of his father. This last part is something that Powers does from time to time, puts himself into his fiction, in fictional and not so fictional ways.
The takes place primarily in the 1970s and the family in question involves children in their twenties and some still teens. Their father, a brilliant loving man, begins to deteriorate mentally and emotionally, and the large looming loving presence he held over the family in his health twists and inverts in his sickness. In addition to this primary narrative, we also get a narrative written by the father as an alternate biography of Walt Disney, especially dealing with Disney’s hiring of several interned Japanese-Americans during WWII for his animation studio.
Prisoner’s Dilemma, as it’s commonly understood, refers to the kind of game where opponents can set aside selfish impulses for a modest common good, or risk losing for a chance at a higher reward. Put here in this novel, there’s also the position of a doom where the prisoners are risking a worse consequence for a lesser penalty. Maybe there’s a kind of prisoner’s dilemma when it comes to love and vulnerability, where opening yourself up offers a greater chance of reward, but also a much more intense possible loss.