Writing the first line of your first blog is even harder than starting to write a book. Blogging is an instantaneous conversation, and nobody wants to begin a conversation with a bad beginning. (Plus, you can always change the first line of your book, at least until it’s published, and that takes forever.) So I’m nervous right now, and probably too self-conscious. Hopefully, that will fade with time and verbosity.
I’ll begin by introducing myself. If you’re on scienceblogs.com, you’ve probably heard of Seed Magazine. I’m a staff writer. Over the last few years, I’ve had the pleasure of profiling Brian Greene, writing about cellular disorder, explaining neurogenesis, and, most recently, talking about Joan Roughgarden and lesbian macaques. My first article for Seed – way back in 2003 – was entitled “Proust Was A Neuroscientist,” and, by some ridiculous stroke of good fortune, I ended up writing a book with that same title. (It will be published by Houghton-Mifflin next year.)
What’s the book about? The title isn’t ironic. I actually argue that Proust anticipated some fundamental discoveries in modern neuroscience. But he wasn’t the only artist with prophetic powers. I also argue that Walt Whitman, George Eliot, August Escoffier, Paul Cezanne, Igor Stravinsky, Gertrude Stein and Virginia Woolf (basically a Who’s Who of modernism) also anticipated the shiny new facts of neuroscience. I’m sure I’ll gradually reveal what scientific truths these artists discovered, but before I do, I’m curious if any readers would like to hazard a few guesses. As I’ve been writing this book, I’ve gradually begun to believe my own interpretations (of both the art and the science), and that is always a dangerous thing. It’s easy to forget that Proust didn’t just write about memory and madelines. So I’m hoping for a few reader hypotheses that will jar me out of my closed-mindedness, and remind me of all the other interpretations that I forgot to write about.
In the near future, as I slowly unfurl my life story (it’s brief, don’t worry), I hope to explain how I came up with such a far-fetched idea.