By People Staff
September 14, 1987 12:00 PM

by Amanda Prantera

Hard as it is to resist a novel with an uninhibited title like this, maybe you should try. Prantera’s plot has a team of stuffy British researchers program into a computer everything Byron wrote or said or did and most of what was written and said about him in his lifetime. The point is to solve the mystery about the great love of Byron’s life, who appeared in his poetry as “Thyrza.” One possibility is that this adored being was Edleston, a fellow student of Byron’s, and that the notorious poet-womanizer, author of Don Juan, was gay. A sensitive researcher named Anna asks the computer about the poet’s years at Cambridge, where he matriculated at 17. Reluctantly the artificial brain begins to recall the events of those years, including how Byron met Edleston, a beautiful 15-year-old choirboy. Anna learns quickly that she must be extremely careful with her questions, or the moody computer will print out NINCOMPOOP. “Anna had begun to suspect,” we are told, “that the computer was quoting poetry to itself, under its breath as it were, and this was the reason for its absorption.” Inside the machine, Byron’s life at Cambridge is being recalled in vivid, convincing detail, and eventually the question about Thyrza is answered. Prantera, author of the novels Strange Loop and The Cabalist, has chosen to make her researchers a drab lot—so colorless that it is hard to believe that the computerized Byron, at the end, falls a little in love with Anna and writes a poem just for her. Conversations is a very appealing idea, ever so slight in its execution. (Atheneum, $15.95)