Belletristic Essay

Belletristic Essay-79
I learned many fascinating things about the Cambrian explosion, the extinct blaauwbock (a blue antelope), new theories of taxonomy, catastrophism versus uniformitarianism -- most of which I suspect I will forget in a month, but maybe not. But whether delighted or bored, I deepened my acquaintance with that singular literary character, Stephen Jay Gould.I found his perspective on fads in science museums incisive and eloquent, and his excursions into literary matters (like Edgar Allan Poe's conchology book) enlightening. Like all self-conscious essayists, he has erected a persona -- and first-person stand-in -- that selectively mirrors the author in real life. Gould does not generally write personal essays, we do learn many details about him in passing: he is "a man of below-average stature" who played washtub bass in his youth; adores Gothic cathedrals; wears white, legendless T-shirts; persists in rooting for the Yankees though he lives in the Boston area; and collects old books. Gould's "I," as he chooses to represent himself, is first of all a mensch: the public-school Jewish kid from Queens, a "dinosaur nut" (ridiculed as "Fossil Face" by his schoolmates), who became a lover of tolerance and reason, a "humanist at heart," a "meat-and-potatoes man." Layered over this earthy Everyman is a proud, prickly researcher not above tooting his horn; a tireless (and sometimes tiresome) polemicist for Darwin's theory of evolution; a melancholy, introverted antiquarian who cherishes the noble deeds of the semi-forgotten dead; and an extroverted lecturer who inspires uncommonly with his enthusiasms -- but who also falls into that more common professorial style of facetious pedantry and self-quotation. Putting aside questions of literary merit for the moment, I know of no other living essayist who has sustained such a remarkable production. Gould, who is also a professor of zoology and geology at Harvard, clearly has a fiercely focused energy to go along with his brilliant mind and impressive range."Dinosaur in a Haystack," his seventh collection, is fully the equal of previous, well-received volumes like "The Panda's Thumb" and "Bully for Brontosaurus." It begins, significantly, by citing "Michel de Montaigne, traditional founder of the essay as a literary genre," which suggests that Mr.

I learned many fascinating things about the Cambrian explosion, the extinct blaauwbock (a blue antelope), new theories of taxonomy, catastrophism versus uniformitarianism -- most of which I suspect I will forget in a month, but maybe not. But whether delighted or bored, I deepened my acquaintance with that singular literary character, Stephen Jay Gould.I found his perspective on fads in science museums incisive and eloquent, and his excursions into literary matters (like Edgar Allan Poe's conchology book) enlightening. Like all self-conscious essayists, he has erected a persona -- and first-person stand-in -- that selectively mirrors the author in real life. Gould does not generally write personal essays, we do learn many details about him in passing: he is "a man of below-average stature" who played washtub bass in his youth; adores Gothic cathedrals; wears white, legendless T-shirts; persists in rooting for the Yankees though he lives in the Boston area; and collects old books. Gould's "I," as he chooses to represent himself, is first of all a mensch: the public-school Jewish kid from Queens, a "dinosaur nut" (ridiculed as "Fossil Face" by his schoolmates), who became a lover of tolerance and reason, a "humanist at heart," a "meat-and-potatoes man." Layered over this earthy Everyman is a proud, prickly researcher not above tooting his horn; a tireless (and sometimes tiresome) polemicist for Darwin's theory of evolution; a melancholy, introverted antiquarian who cherishes the noble deeds of the semi-forgotten dead; and an extroverted lecturer who inspires uncommonly with his enthusiasms -- but who also falls into that more common professorial style of facetious pedantry and self-quotation. Putting aside questions of literary merit for the moment, I know of no other living essayist who has sustained such a remarkable production. Gould, who is also a professor of zoology and geology at Harvard, clearly has a fiercely focused energy to go along with his brilliant mind and impressive range."Dinosaur in a Haystack," his seventh collection, is fully the equal of previous, well-received volumes like "The Panda's Thumb" and "Bully for Brontosaurus." It begins, significantly, by citing "Michel de Montaigne, traditional founder of the essay as a literary genre," which suggests that Mr.

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Consciously or unconsciously, Crichton seems to have devoted much of his career to creating a vast patchwork quilt of intertextual reconstructions of classic science-fiction stories.

Crichton’s dedication to “real” science is his most obvious and recurrent theme.

Many reviewers and even ardent fans of his work have assumed that Crichton’s principal concern is with the dangers of science run amok, as is the case with Shelley in .

However, although Shelley was indeed concerned with scientific inquiry and invention going so far as to be dangerous and dehumanizing, Crichton is more specific: His fiction addresses the dangers posed by science when it is corrupted by outside influences, most commonly business, the government and military, and popular media.

Sometimes this device works magnificently, as in his moving essay "Cordelia's Dilemma," which moves from the silence of Lear's daughter to a defense of the importance of negative results in research.

When it doesn't work, the link feels strained. Gould has a curious notion that essays are effective to the degree that they successfully yoke disparate elements together.How can we hope to understand the rarer moments that manufacture history's pageant, if we do not recognize and revel in the pervasive substrate? Gould's essayistic strengths and weaknesses as issuing from the scientist's celebration of stability.He has a fabulous eye for significant everyday detail (see his refreshing observations on taking in an eclipse from the sidewalks of New York).A typical essay begins by citing some proverb, passage of poetry or famous quip, which Mr.Gould uses as a bridge to the elucidation of a scientific issue.His most powerful essays, however, extend from a deeper core: outrage (concerning a great scientist who became a shill for the tobacco industry), grief and guilt (over the connection between Nazism and Darwinism), loss (the nerdy child's passion for dusty museums)."Cordelia's Dilemma" derives its resonance from issues of autobiographical centrality: Mr.The Andromeda Strain The first novel published under Crichton’s own name—and his first work that was not a conventional murder mystery— in the 1990’s Crichton’s most widely read book.In it, we see at the inception of his career as a best-selling science-fiction/thriller writer the themes and techniques that he used most consistently throughout his life.These procedures as described may be in advance of contemporary science, but they still fall within the realm of near-future possibilities.Likewise, in , that seminal science-fiction writer’s exploration of the borderlands between humanity and other species. Moreau create humanoid creatures from animals through painful operations, Crichton’s characters employ more believable twenty-first century science involving DNA and gene splicing.

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