Well then. Let's move from an explanation of science to a great novel showing the limitations of systematic methods of discovery. (But you arts folk, don't skip over the earlier post to get to this one - that's cheating). My wife pushed hard to get me to read this - but she almost put me off by suggesting more than once that I had Asperger's tendencies and would identify with the main character... (She thinks all men have, so at least there are a lot of us shouldering the same accusation).
It's not the sort of book I'd usually be drawn to read but alongside another she got me to read many years ago - John Irving's A Prayer For Owen Meany - it will be a lasting favourite. Don Tillman is a Genetics Prof who's very direct, more than a little socially-challenged, and demonstrates autistic traits (eg lack of social awareness, focus on detail at the expense of people/relationships, & failure to pick up social cues). He has a small number of amazingly tolerant friends, but his relationships with women have been a disaster, for reasons that are self-evident to everyone but him. He's a bloke who values evidence base and systematic approaches above pretty much all else.
This is a funny, gentle novel, rich with dramatic irony. Don's life is highly organised and predictable (something else he values a great deal). He realises that he's missing out on a life partner, so he embarks on what is dubbed The Wife Project. He resorts to some common solutions eg speed dating. Trouble is, he finds traditional approaches very inefficient. Feelings are, after all, untrustworthy. So, he designs a lengthy questionnaire in order to sort 'the wheat from the chaff.' In the process he completely misses when he's being chatted up. Potential spouses are dismissed on the basis that they don't fit the predefined criteria that he's after. He realises some deficiencies with the early version of his questionnaire so, like a good scientist, he adapts it to make it even better at filtering out the 'unsuitable.'
Then Rosie storms into his life. She's full of vitality, energy and passion and isn't put off by his odd traits. She doesn't seem constrained by rules. She is, however, clearly unsuitable by pretty much all of his predefined 'spouse criteria'. Still, he ends up spending time with her using his genetic skills to try to help her identify her biological father (who may well be trying his best to remain unidentified). She REALLY screws up his life tho. His carefully crafted routines are turned upside down, he discovers things he's never noticed before, he ends up in physical fights with restaurant staff and, against his usual nature, he breaks all sorts of rules (including ethical ones relating to testing genetic samples nicked at parties). He gets in serious bother with his longsuffering (female) University Dean. All the while he finds it deeply unsettling when he's away from Rosie...
Don really is a pain. His arrival at his friends' door at awkward times of the day or night could be real 'heartsink' moments.
"I wish that for just one time
You could stand inside my shoes
And just for that one moment
I could be you
Yes, I wish that for just one time
You could stand inside my shoes
You’d know what a drag it is
To see you"
Here's a shot I took recently in New York. (Indulge me). Spent a while exploring sites in the Village and its evocative streets. Only noticed the street sign when someone pointed it out to me after I got back to Belfast.
The Village in NYC is synonymous with shaking off conventional restraint. You really want Don to throw caution to the wind. Go on Don, don't be afraid of your feelings. Show some passion. Lighten up. Play some Tubes... Don't be afraid of the parts she might reach.
"Your body gives me a thrill
as it leans against mine
I love how it feels
with your jeans against mine
The smell of burning leather
as we hold each other tight
As our rivets rub together
flashing sparks into the night
At this moment of surrender darling
if you really care
Don't touch me there"
Gradually Rosie works some magic.
Rosie turns out to be what he wants, not what he thinks he needs. When it comes to his feelings, she'd ask him what the matter was, but she knows that he don't talk..
This is a humorous and touching story of self-discovery and the misapplication of systematic ways to find stuff out. Don discovers that the questionnaire said a great deal about himself. He thought he had constructed it to find a wife that would be suitable for him, but came to learn that it was better at selecting a wife to whom he would be suitable.
Against his nature, Don learns by being in a growing relationship with someone. What's more, the changes brought about by that relationship then give him passion to help others who have their own problems (and equally may be unaware of them even if they're not well into the autistic spectrum).
It's a great book. Get it before the film's out.