Serious Thoughts About Science in an Entertaining Package

Dwight Garner in The New York Times:

By the time Edward St. Aubyn completed the last of his Patrick Melrose novels in 2012, it was clear that a new animal had approached the watering hole of fiction in England. This animal was of a species thought to have largely gone extinct: the anatomist of the remote upper classes. The subject of these novels put St. Aubyn in an invidious position. His arrival was resisted. To a certain kind of reader, the notion of consuming five novels about extreme privilege — heavy manners, long bones — seemed about as enjoyable as expressing a dog’s anal glands. But St. Aubyn could write: He could really write. He blended woe with wit; his ironies were fierce and finely tuned. The details were precise because St. Aubyn actually had the British upper-class background that, as Clive James noted, the snobbier Evelyn Waugh longed for. St. Aubyn’s new book, “Double Blind,” is an entertainment on scientific themes: brain-mapping, biochemistry, botany, immunotherapy, schizophrenia and the ethics of placebos (hence the book’s title), among other topics.

…Here he is on neuroscience and my day job: “What part of the brain lights up when the reader first encounters Mr. Darcy and his odious pride? Can literary criticism afford to ignore what is happening to the reader’s amygdala when Elizabeth Bennet rejects his first proposal? It is a truth universally acknowledged that any topic in search of a reputation for seriousness must be in want of neuroimaging.”

More here.