space

Cosmos: A Recommended Reading List

The new series Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey presented by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson arrived last week. The follow-up to Carl Sagan’s 1980 Cosmos: A Personal Journey is stunning and exciting. I am a big fan of space and everything else, even when my mind gets fatigued just thinking about how expansive and unknowable it all is. The outer space section of my high school physics class (a course which I did miserably in) was my favorite part. Because I had always done so poorly in science class, when I went to college and moaned over the required science credits I had to take. However, I was pleasantly surprised with my dinosaurs and evolution course (I think this had to do with the engaging professor I had and the subject matter).

The cosmos, the beginning of everything, multi-verses, and light years are just a few of the many facets that fascinate me about the “spacetime odyssey.” I am not alone with this fascination. Even in our fictions–whether it be film, TV, or writing–artists and writers imagine different worlds or alternate versions of our own, and we can’t get enough of it. Below are a few book recommendations that fall into the fiction category–books and stories to enjoy while awaiting the new episodes of Cosmos. Do you have any favorites to add? Has anyone else started watching this stellar documentary series?

**If you want some supplementary non-fiction nibbles, I recommend the PBS autobiographical documentary HawkingInto The Universe with Stephen Hawking, Carl Sagan’s Cosmos, AMNH.org’s article on Catholic priest Georges Lemaître, father of the Big Bang, or the marvelous gallery at the Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey’s website.

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The Gaze of Orpheus

Yesterday afternoon, I was invited by a very talented friend to the first part in a series of three concert-lectures she is putting on. The entire arch of the project deals with the Orphic myth and how it has influenced music and composers (my friend is studying to be a conductor). Her research was thorough and inventive, and the music performed was stellar (Haydn, Monteverdi, etc.). Besides the enjoyment I had from the music, I am always keen on anything to do with Classical Greece (full disclosure: I studied Classical Greek Civilization & Mythology in college). Before I continue, if you are unfamiliar with Orpheus, may I suggest taking a look at this quick snippet.

She mentioned that she will explore more about the “gaze of Orpheus” in her second concert-lecture. This had me thinking about Maurice Blanchot (as one does on a chilly Sunday afternoon). Even though her project is of course directed towards music, I strongly recommended Blanchot’s essay, The Gaze of Orpheus. Many people find Blanchot to be difficult and obtuse–I admit to being perplexed at times–but he is definitely worth a read to anyone interested in literature, language, art, life, death, etc. He is so fascinated with the idea of Orpheus, that he even wrote an experimental novel called Thomas the Obscure.

In The Gaze of Orpheus, Blanchot discusses Orpheus’ descent from the world of the living to Hades so he may retrieve his dead love, Eurydice. He compares this excursion to that of “the artist,” as well as examining the creative process.

Even though he is a challenge, I highly recommend Blanchot. I won’t get into it with this post, but for the past couple of years, I have been extremely interested with space in literature: both the physical space within the novel and also, the way the reader, author, and character(s) react to space. Which brings me to Blanchot’s The Space of Literature. Read it!