Sunday, April 17, 2005

Weekend hodgepodge

"Why are there so many antievolutionists? Scriptural literalism can only be part of the answer. The American public certainly includes a large segment of scriptural literalists--but not that large, not 44 percent. Creationist proselytizers and political activists, working hard to interfere with the teaching of evolutionary biology in public schools, are another part. Honest confusion and ignorance, among millions of adult Americans, must be still another. Many people have never taken a biology course that dealt with evolution nor read a book in which the theory was lucidly explained. Sure, we've all heard of Charles Darwin, and of a vague, somber notion about struggle and survival that sometimes goes by the catchall label 'Darwinism.' But the main sources of information from which most Americans have drawn their awareness of this subject, it seems, are haphazard ones at best: cultural osmosis, newspaper and magazine references, half-baked nature documentaries on the tube, and hearsay."

David Quammen's "Was Darwin Wrong?" in last November's National Geographic won in the National Magazine Award's essay category last week. I'd kept the November issue close at hand but didn't get around to reading the essay until Friday night. You can click through Robert Clark's accompanying series of images and read the opening paragraphs of the essay online.

Made a quick trip to the used bookstore on Saturday. Came home with an illustrated hardback version of Beryl Markham's West With the Night, and paperback copies of Saul Bellow's Henderson the Rain King and A.L. Kennedy's Everything You Need. Kennedy has a cool website--her answers to F.A.Q. are most entertaining.

"I decided to write the novel as a chain of plot-and-character studies about how individuals prey on individuals, corporations on employees, tribes on tribes, majorities on minorities, and how present generations 'eat' the sustenance of future generations. Having two narratives set in the past, two in the present and two in the future let me play with historiography and show the 'continental drift' of language. Better still, the structure — in which each narrative is 'eaten' by its successor and later 'regurgitated' by the same — could mirror, and, with luck, enhance the overarching theme."

David Mitchell discusses the genesis of Cloud Atlas in Saturday's Guardian.

Another review of Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go. I'll be reading Ishiguro's latest as soon as I finish Joy Comes in the Morning.

Listened to lectures on T.S. Eliot and "The Wasteland" en route to Chapel Hill on Friday--I'm about ready to attempt a second reading of the poem.

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