Magazine article American Libraries

Literary Science

Magazine article American Libraries

Literary Science

Article excerpt

When we think of science and fiction we usually think of SF, a genre that emphasizes futuristic fantasy and technology. But science can play a subtler role in novels and stories. Disciplines such as physics or chemistry are rich in potential metaphors, while scientists--preoccupied and eccentric--can be cast as poetic visionaries endowed with the ability to see far beyond what we usually think of as reality into abstract realms full of beauty and grace.

The authors of these recent works of fiction celebrate the mystical and aesthetic elements of pure science, while simultaneously relishing the more humorous aspects of the scientific personality. Each writer ponders the mysterious workings of the universe, our efforts to analyze and comprehend them, and our failure to achieve science's highest goal: strict objectivity. Science is, after all, essentially creative and unavoidably personal, an art, in fact, with strong links to literature. Cox, Elizabeth. The Ragged Way People Fall

Out of Love. North Point, 1991, $1&95 (0-86547-446-X);

paper, HarperCollins, $10

(0-06-097454-0). Although this is primarily a novel about the disintegration of a marriage, the cosmic elegance of astronomy is a central theme serving as a catalyst for change. Molly is trying to cope with the fact that her husband doesn't love her anymore. She enrolls in an astronomy class and discovers that stargazing and musing on the stately movements of planets are soothing and inspirational activities. Spending time with her attractive professor isn't bad either. At any rate, Cox sets the silent and orderly vastness of the heavens in sharp contrast to the ever-messy dramas and traumas of family life and love. Dukes, Carol Muske. Saving St. Germ.

Viking, 1993,$21 (0-670-84047-5). Biochemist Esme Charbonneau epitomizes both the excitement and inconvenience of being a scientific genius, particularly if you're female. Her abrupt and compelling visions into the structure of the universe interfere with her perception of daily life and drive her husband crazy, but their main bone of contention is their daughter. Ollie is a strange whirling dervish of a child. While her father considers her dysfunctional, her mother delights in her flashes of intuition. This is an exquisite and entrancing tale about the risks of being "gifted." Goldstein, Rebecca. Strange Attractors.

Viking, 1993, $21 (0-670-84640-6). We confess, only two of the short stories

in this fine collection are related to our theme, but they're too good to miss, and we highly recommend each and every one of Goldstein's intense and empathic tales. …

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