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Science Novelist Speaks in NYC

i-f12c97ea5fdded9c7032b172e6ac31a1-andrea.jpgFor the Salon feature in the June 2006 issue of Seed, we brought together the curator of the American Museum of Natural History, Niles Eldredge, with novelist Andrea Barrett to talk about the role of narrative in science.

Next Monday, October 22, Barrett will read from her new novel, The Air We Breathe, at the 92nd Street Y in New York City.

Barrett, who studied biology in college, writes historical novels whose themes betray her love for science. (Many of her characters, in fact, are 19th-century scientists.) Moreover, she sees science in the writing process itself. In the Salon discussion, for instance, she likened the evolution of characters in a novel to the evolution of species:

Any piece of fiction starts by selecting from all the possible characters existing, or potentially existing, in the universe, and isolates a few. Those few, set on an island of their own, then interact over the narrative time of the fiction, and also over the real time it takes to write the multiple drafts. Some sets of characters exhibit stability over long stretches of time, then change suddenly in the aftermath of a meteor-like crisis. Others change more gradually.

Monday’s reading will feature Barrett, as well as Russian journalist and fiction writer Tatyana Tolstaya, author of The Slynx.

For tickets or more information, visit the 92nd Street Y’s website.

Image Credit: Julian Dufort