Monday, April 08, 2013

Reader's Diary #980- Roger Ebert: The Thinking Molecules of Titan

Roger Ebert was my go-to guy for movie reviews. I didn't always agree with his judgement, but more so for his than the many others out there. With Ebert's reviews, however, it didn't always matter if I wound up agreeing, the review itself was worth my time. They were sometimes entertaining, sometimes thought-provoking, and usually both. Listening to all the tributes pour in after his death last week, even from actors whose work he'd sometimes slammed, I was reminded once again of the value of a review. As a reviewer, that's a good reminder to have, especially as most days we're made to feel like parasites. (The only thing worst than a reviewer, is a self-published reviewer but that's for a whole other discussion.)

I was surprised to come across a short story on the New Yorker website written by Roger Ebert. I had no idea that he'd ever tried his hand at fiction. Turns out he'd even written a novel; Behind the Phantom's Mask. Of course celebrities can get book deals at the drop of a hat, so that doesn't necessary mean he was good at writing fiction. Nor does his skill at reviewing. Out of respect to Ebert, I was prepared to give "The Thinking Molecules of Titan" an honest review.

Before getting to the story itself, however, I should note that the prelude written by Richard Brody helps put the story, and the author, into perspective.

"The Thinking Molecules of Titan" reminded me of Isaac Asimov's writing. It's sci-fi, it deals with questions of art and science, possibly religion, but it's all told in an accessible way. The questions it raises aren't new.  I've heard similar thoughts about the Fibonacci sequence, as people attempt to also include mathematics into the mix. Not that any of the thoughts are possible to really narrow down into a single, defined theory, but they're about life and the universe somehow all making sense, and if art can't necessarily explain it, it can— at the very least— help us believe it.

Ebert has done a great job balancing the mundane against such philosophy (or search for philosophy), with characters that seemed just at the brink of believing that life could be mundane. Just in time.

(Did you write a post for Short Story Monday? If so, please leave a link in the comments below.)


Barbara Bruederlin said...

What a find! I also had no idea that Roger Ebert had written fiction. I am going to save this for my break later today. Thanks!

John Mutford said...

Barbara: Now I also want to see Beyond the Valley of the Dolls.