Writing and Science, Soulmates?

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A lot of people look at my passions, and wonder how on Earth I even exist, someone who has such polar opposite pursuits. I am a biochemist, and I am a writer. I recently made a video about how I am a writer, and that is my job. At the moment, that is my job, yes. But so is science. And if I were to get really philosophical here, which I am, then I would say that writing comes down to the same thing that science comes down to: a curiosity about the universe. Science is curiosity about the natural world. Writing is curiosity about our souls. It’s the same mindset, taken from two different angles. Therefore, I think that I’m just curious. The universe intrigues me, and I don’t find nature nor souls more important or more mysterious. I will sit here and debate quantum mechanics with you in the same conversation that I will debate where I belong in the universe.

I was reading Carlo Rovelli’s Seven Brief Lessons on Physicsseven-brief-lessons-on-physics-original-imae6yb8ecwy3drw when I came across this quote: “In the world of contemporary science, there are many things that we do not understand, and one of the things that we understand least about is ourselves.” As I read that, I thought, how true. My next thought was, and that is why I write. Writing is the soulmate of science. It completes, or attempts to complete that which science cannot fully answer. As a scientist, I want to believe that everything in the human body has a reason behind it–our mind, our goals, our hobbies, etc.–but I know that despite any knowledge we may collect, we will still remain a mystery. Rovelli puts this perhaps more eloquently in his book. I may take it even one step further than Rovelli, but perhaps in doing so I am wrong. Yes, our bodies work like a robot, each cog fitting together and fulfilling a purpose, but I am reluctant to expunge that part that we think of as making us human. And even if we can figure out the physiology, etc., I do not think we will get all the answers in the same way that chemicals are not the same thing as love.

Science may not answer the questions of the soul. Writing, however, is the closest we can, or have, gotten. Writing involves more than just putting words onto paper or constructing a plot. True literature, as Bret Lott says, is delving into the soul. I firmly believe that, and that is what I strive for in my writing. In this delving into the soul, a writer must take into account the natural world, must take into account philosophy, religion, and psychology, etc. Nothing is left unaccounted for in writing. Not even experimental results. Writers, whether or not they realize it, employ some form of the scientific method, and that also plays into their stories.

So yes, writing and science are soulmates. I think that’s why I am so drawn to them both.

Photo credits: http://intentblog.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/05/magic_mushrooms.jpg, http://img5a.flixcart.com/image/book/9/6/6/seven-brief-lessons-on-physics-original-imae6yb8ecwy3drw.jpeg

 

Review: The Catcher in the Rye

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This book has to be the most vulgar young adult book I’ve ever read, but it also happens to be one of the best.

Normally I’m not a fan of vulgarity. To quote Maggie Smith’s character on Downton Abbey, “Vulgarity is no substitute for wit.” That line. I love that line.

In this book, vulgarity isn’t always wit. And often it isn’t wit at all. It just is. It’s a part of the narrator’s world. It’s a very obvious way of showing that, hey, this guy isn’t perfect, and trust me, they go on to show it in many more ways. But here’s what he is: he’s trying to figure out where he belongs in the world.

This is the way of a lot of young adult books, and they pretty much all followed J.D. Salinger. They call them coming of age stories. Aptly named, don’t you think?

Well, in this book our protagonist Holden Caulfield cannot seem to stay in school. He thinks it’s full of fakes, and that, on that note, the world tends to resemble them. He has a pessimistic outlook on life, to say the least. And I think I somewhat empathize with it, as I think we all do actually. We all see fakes around us. He just sees a lot of them.

The book is a lot of him wandering around, acting like an adult when really he is a child. Acting like he owns the place when really he is lost.

I’m sure I could rip apart the symbolism in this book. I’m sure someone has. But, save the title, I’m not going to do that. Because I don’t think that was the point of this book, or any, for that matter. The point is to make you feel. Feel what, exactly, I don’t know. It’s still a bit muddled for me. I had to let myself sit for a good week after finishing it just to try and figure it out. Of course, we feel for him. We also want to know our place in the world, and therefore the suffering he endures on his journey into adulthood is relatable.

I think, ultimately, that this book accomplishes two things:

  1. We learn that Holden is kind. He is rough around the edges, but at the core, he is good.
  2. Holden learns that he wants to catch others in the rye.

There we go–the name of the book. The Catcher in the Rye. What does catching in the rye mean? Well, the book doesn’t say it right out, but it gets close. I could be wrong, but the impression I get is that he wants to catch people who need him to. Save them from whatever.

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger is a beautiful book. 5/5 stars.

 

Review: The Reptile Room

Lemony Snicket writes the scariest stories of all stories I’ve come across for young children, and you know what makes them scariest? They’re actually plausible. DUN DUN DUUUUN.

The Reptile Room is the second in his A Series of Unfortunate Events, and it relays the tale of three orphans, the Baudelaire children, and their hope for joy in life only to be squashed by woeful happenings. Snicket himself doesn’t hide this. In fact, he outright states it as the narrator multiple times.

In this particular book, the children are taken to a relative who is a herpetologist (reptile specialist), and keeps a reptile room in his house. Sounds safe, right? Well, it comes back to bite them  (thank you, thank you. I’ll be here all night). In the end, who will be alive? Uncle Monty? The children? The reptiles?

You must read to find out, and I do suggest it.

If you want spoilers, well here goes:

The main plot twist here is instigated by the entrance of the terrible villain from the first book: Count Olaf. He has evil plans to get the fortune, surprise surprise.

But the Baudelaire children are ready to fight. In this book, they grow more and more, each of them gaining further confidence and skills in their war–for it is to be a war, not a battle–against the count.

The plot is intriguing and that’s great, but there is also a deeper emotional level to this book, and that has to do with the portrayal of the children’s processing of the death of their parents. They have switched from a happy life where they are encouraged to learn to an unhappy one where their learning is somewhat stifled (depending on who they are with). But they come to learn that happiness can be found in ways not before thought, as well as how to apply what they’ve learned, which is a skill in and of itself.

Overall, The Reptile Room gets a 4.5/5 stars. I look forward to watching the Baudelaire children continue to grow as I read the next book, The Wide Window.

Photo credit for cover: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/5/5a/The_Reptile_Room_USA.PNG

Succumbing to First Person

On my second novel, which I haven’t talked much about lately, I have been using third person POV. I wanted to force myself to write in third. As a sort of writing challenge, because I tend to write in first. Then there’s the fact that the book is from a boy’s perspective, and I thought that third person would help me separate from the character. Actually, the reason I wanted to write from a boy’s perspective at all would be to get me to write not from my perspective, but I was afraid that if I started writing in first person that my perspective would take over.

FIRST keeps wanting to force itself on me, though. It just seems natural for the story. It so needs to be from the character’s point of view.

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I must, it keeps telling me.  I am meant for itI am meant to defeat Link.

Not that my story has anything to do with Zelda. Not at all. But my narrator (who I’ve learned is quite separate from me no matter what point of view from which I write) wants to participate first-hand (or in the case of the Zelda games, defeat Link first hand).

So I succumb. It has been changed. Who knows if I will change it back or not. But it feels like a big deal. I’ve done this once or twice before in stories, but never this far in. So here goes.

Gif credit: https://i.kinja-img.com/gawker-media/image/upload/ufoh7tmctlxh5uvksiuh.gif