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Essays on diverse topics - Literature, Ideas, Experience
Essays on diverse topics - Literature, Ideas, Experience

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COMEDY INSPIRED By SCIENCE
 
 
 
Penelope Lively, renowned for her serious, historically themed novels, has also written comic novels imbued with an understanding of chaos theory.
 
How does the author’s philosophical inquiry into chaos theory shape her 21st century novel?
 
Chaos theory transforms the comic plot of Penelope Lively’s novel of happenstance,  How It All Began. As in Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors, the action of Lively’s novel is predicated on plot dynamics based on moments of reversal and recognition. The novelist and the playwright must keep track of plot complications, holding the several threads of the storyline that determine each character’s unique (and limited) perspective on events.
 
Human error drives the Elizabethan comedy. According to Shakespeare’s 16th century understanding, human error can be resolved, brought to an end, its mischief vanquished. Happenstance, rather than human error, drives the action of How It All Began, a story in which the mundane mugging of an elderly, retired schoolteacher derails seven lives and counting. Having set the plot in motion, the ripple effect of chaos continues to the end of the story and beyond.
 
Comedy––and especially farce––has always relied upon a certain amount of chaos, as popularly understood. From Comedy of Errors to the bedroom farces of Feydeau, chaos begets comedy begets chaos. Chaos theory, derived from mathematical models, applies not especially to the disorder in human lives, but to the impact of small initial variations on dynamical systems.
 
Informed by a philosophical-scientific inquiry that shapes her novel, Lively uses a type of chain-reacting chaos that spreads from character to character to demonstrate the effects of chaos on dynamic situations. These dynamic situations are fictional and, of course, human. This may feel a lot like classic farce––we certainly laugh as much––but be assured that, by book’s end, with the author decrying storytelling conventions like endings as artificial, you will know that you are in a scientifically-inspired universe: “These stories do not end but they spin away from one another, each on its own course.”
 
Learn more about Penelope Lively at: http://wordpixelsblog.blogspot.com
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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Simone de Beauvoir
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Missed seeing "A is for Apollinaire" thru "J is for Joyce" in your stream? You can see posts from the Authors A-Z series on the G+ Literature Page, or on the Authors A-Z Pages of wordpixelsblog.blogspot.com.
A is for Apollinaire

Le Pont Mirabeau

Sous le pont Mirabeau coule la Seine
           Et nos amours
     Faut-il qu'il m'en souvienne
La joie venait toujours après la peine
           Vienne la nuit sonne l'heure
           Les jours s'en vont je demeure

Les mains dans les mains restons face à face
           Tandis que sous
     Le pont de nos bras passe
Des éternels regards l'onde si lasse
           Vienne la nuit sonne l'heure
           Les jours s'en vont je demeure

L'amour s'en va comme cette eau courante
           L'amour s'en va
     Comme la vie est lente
Et comme l'Espérance est violente
           Vienne la nuit sonne l'heure
           Les jours s'en vont je demeure
Passent les jours et passent les semaines
           Ni temps passé
     Ni les amours reviennent
Sous le pont Mirabeau coule la Seine
           Vienne la nuit sonne l'heure
           Les jours s'en vont je demeure



Mirabeau Bridge
Translated by Richard Wilbur

Under the Mirabeau Bridge there flows the Seine
          Must I recall
     Our loves recall how then
After each sorrow joy came back again
Let night come on bells end the day
The days go by me still I stay

Hands joined and face to face let's stay just so
          While underneath
     The bridge of our arms shall go
Weary of endless looks the river's flow
Let night come on bells end the day
The days go by me still I stay
All love goes by as water to the sea
          All love goes by
     How slow life seems to me
How violent the hope of love can be
Let night come on bells end the day
The days go by me still I stay

The days the weeks pass by beyond our ken
          Neither time past
     Nor love comes back again
Under the Mirabeau Bridge there flows the Seine
Let night come on bells end the day
The days go by me still I stay
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What is the human condition? V.S. Ramachandran suggests three things that are unique to human nature.
Our Place in the Cosmos and What Makes Us Unique

V.S. Ramachandran: A lecture that focuses on three things that are regarded as unique to human nature.
What is the brain and evolutionary basis of: One—For humor and laughter. Two—The origin of emapthy the basis of culture and civilization. Three—Creativity, what makes us creative.

Despite his apparent simplicity of approach, Rama sums these up his usual style in 21:00 or less minutes.

Video (21:00)
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