Here’s the “Screwtape” article I wrote for “Fellowship and Fairydust.”
If you like to learn, even if you’re not particularly scientific, give Radio Lab from NPR a try. Today, like any that I listen, I learned heaps about a topic I’d never even think of. This time that topic was — parasites.
Yes, parasites. Not something we hear about on the daily news or in school or in conversation.
Listening to Radio Lab today, I came to respect, yes, respect parasites and the scientists who study them.
Here’s a bit that I learned that parasites like hookworm caused lethargy in the 19th Century South, which is said to explain in large measure economic slow down, that blood flukes can live in your system for 40+ years and eventually make you sick, and they’re monogamous. And that a parasite that thrives in cats can brainwash a rat it might have wound up in driving rats to fall in love with cats and as a result most likely wind up eaten so that the parasite is back at home in a cat. These parasites can also get in people and cause havoc. Some think there’s a relationship between schizophrenia and cats because after people started keeping cats as pets, schizophrenia became more common.
Parasites can be good. Good parasites are getting wiped out, and new diseases like Crohn’s disease have become common as sanitation has wiped out both good and bad parasites.
I’m not making this up. I came away thinking that nature is just astounding.
You can try Radio Lab here and choose a podcast on such topics as: color, synchronicity, time, God and many more. The tone, music and narrative used in these programs makes it fascinating.
I found Shannon Hale’s novel Austenland on the new books shelf at the library. Since I’m an unabashed Jane Austen fan, though one who’s never read any fan fiction or other spin offs, I thought Austenland would be a fun, summer read.
Premise: Jane Haynes, a single 30-something graphic artist living in New York has is obsessed with Jane Austen novels. An elderly aunt dies and bequeaths Jane a three week stay at Pemberley Park, where everyone lives in the style of Regency England.
Hmmm, could be fun.
Well, Jane first can’t decide if she should go. Her fretting about this non-problem annoyed me. Of course, readers know she’s going or there’s no story.
Jane arrives in the house and meets the other characters, moderns who adopt early 19th century personas and clothes. As you’d expect they resemble Austen’s characters: the uptight Darcy, the cads, the matchmaking middle aged women. Here though we’re also given some pathetic characters like Miss Charming, a 50-ish heavy guest who adopts the personal of a 20 year old. Many come to Pemberley Park for a three week dose of wish fulfillment.
Throughout the story Jane questions her Austen-complex. Mentally, she complains of the boredom of the lifestyle. She bugged me as she was just a four star White Whiner. It’s hard to push through a story when the heroine is bored or questioning why she’s on a vacation. It’s easy enough to extricate oneself from a resort. Pemberley Park is not Alcatraz.
The plot was predictable; the prose, almost witty. The only non-Austen touch was that Jane has a dalliance with a gardener, who would have been invisible in an Austen novel, where the bad men weren’t servants.
Hale’s writing style is chatty and banal. I think she must read chic lit novels exclusively. While it’s hard to be as good as Austen, I think the best route is to avoid emulation and shoot for originality.
I see that the film opens August 16th. I’d wait for Netflix, rather than buying a ticket, though there’s plenty of better good versions of Austen’s oeuvre with dashing actors like Colin Firth, Matthew Macfayden, Rupert Penry-Jones, and Richard Armitage, that it’s hard to imagine that Austenland offers a better experience.
Monday morning I’m going to get this from the library. It sounds great. A recommendation from Citizen Reader.