Wednesday, April 29, 2009


THE EFFECT OF GAMMA RAYS ON MAN - IN - THE - MOON MARIGOLDS Paul Zindel. I must have read this play about a million light - years ago, but I just had to re-read it after seeing the above stained glass representation of the electromagnetic spectrum at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. (You can see the gamma rays, right after the ultra-violets and the x - rays; the painting is The March Marigold, c. 1870, by Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones). Tillie is so courageous and steadfast in her scientific method, so accurate and inspired in her understanding of the Universe.

On those quizzes that ask what fictional character you would choose to be like, I always think of Tillie. Of course, my worry is that I'm more like the mundane Janice, who is sure she's going to win, but in fact comes in second at the Science Fair, after Tillie, who is a girl of true vision:

"For one thing, the effect of gamma rays on man-in-the-moon marigolds has made me curious about the sun and the stars, for the universe itself must be like a world of great atoms . . . but most important, I suppose my experiment has made me feel important--every atom in me, in everybody, has come from the sun--from places beyond our dreams. The atoms of our hands, the atoms of our hearts" (101-02).

ANOTHER ROADSIDE ATTRACTION Tom Robbins. Now I know that I read EVEN COWGIRLS GET THE BLUES a couple of times in the 70s, and STILL LIFE WITH WOODPECKER a couple of times in the 80s. So why not ROADSIDE ATTRACTION? Luckily, my eldest brother sent me a copy for Christmas last year. If, like me, you missed it in the 70s, it's not too late! The funky restaurant and wacky animal acts were fun, and I appreciated all of Amanda's nature / life philosophies; but what I really loved (and maybe this is true for everyone who reads the book) was the last third of the novel when the criminal monastery subplot takes over and becomes the plot!

It was kind of like "The Da Vinci Code" meets "The Last Temptation of Christ" which, by the way is another one of my favorite novels. Both ROADSIDE & LAST TEMPTATION (by Nikos Kazantzakis)force the reader to question what matters most in Christianity -- is it the death and resurrection; is it to love your neighbor as yourself, is it that the kingdom is within? One thing for sure -- it is NOT what it has become over the centuries. However, if the secret is still hidden somewhere amidst all the distortions and meanness and abuses of power, these novelists come closer to finding and revealing it (to me anyway) than anything I have ever happened across in any church.

THE CATCHER IN THE RYE J.D. Salinger. Holden Caulfield, where have you been all my life? Here's another one that everyone is supposed to read in highschool, but somehow I never did. If you missed this one too, remember -- it's not too late to give it a try! Even at age 50, I thought it was great! For one thing, Holden shares my skepticism of the automobile:

"It's everything. I hate living in New York and all. Taxicabs, and Madison Avenue buses, with the drivers and all always yelling at you to get out at the rear door, and being introduced to phony guys . . . and going up and down in elevators when you just want to go outside, and guys fitting your pants all the time at Brooks, and people always . . . Take most people, they're crazy about cars. They worry if they get a little scratch on them, and they're always talking about how many miles they get to a gallon, and if they get a brand-new car already they start thinking about trading it in for one that's even newer. I don't even like old cars. I mean they don't even interest me. I'd rather have a goddamn horse. A horse is at least human, for God's sake" (from Chapter 17).

I just have to love a narrator who asserts that at least a horse is human!

[A decade after CATCHER IN THE RYE, preservationist James Marston Fitch expressed a similar sentiment: "The automobile has not merely taken over the street, it has dissolved the living tissue of the city. Its appetite for space is absolutely insatiable; moving and parked, it devours urban land, leaving the buildings as mere islands of habitable space in a sea of dangerous and ugly traffic." ~ New York Times, 1 May 1960]

PLEASE READ: Praise for Catcher in the Rye (& more) from the amazing Pat Conroy ~ aka Conrack.

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