In the oeuvre of Polish science fiction author Stanislaw Lem, science itself is always under intense scrutiny. Predictably, considering their publication during the cold war, Lem’s novels reflect (to some degree) nuclear proliferation induced apocalyptic anxieties. However, Lem’s critique of the scientific enterprise focuses less on humanity’s capacity for technologically accelerated destruction and more on human faith in scientific rationality. What are the limits of human understanding? What happens when we reach them?
She had sleep for dinner. Sometimes for breakfast and lunch, too. Her older son would often wake her, screaming. Rediscovering her empty stomach, Agnes would wipe crumbs of dreams from her eyes and hold him through his fits. He was thirty-five years old, and she was approaching seventy. The younger son, who lived in the living room with his daughter, would leave early in the mornings and take his bike with him on the subway ride downtown where he zipped food from place to place. Agnes walked the older one to therapy sometimes, granddaughter in tow, even when it was blisteringly hot because she saved bus tokens that way. If he had another fit, she could splurge on transit. Sometimes she argued with the bus drivers, but they rarely got on for free.
With the holidays come and gone, a new semester underway, and a fresh lockdown, I find myself in a bit of a slump. It’s too early to dream of spring flowers, yet too late for any more gingerbread or mistletoe— January, for me, felt weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable.
Trigger warning for the book: domestic violence
David Szalay’s Turbulence started out as a series of short radio stories for the BBC. The slim 160-page novel circles the world; each chapter title consists of two airport codes (such as LAX, YYZ, SEA, DHA, and DEL) which sets the scene for where the novel will travel next. Each chapter is awarded its own protagonist, who is introduced in its preceding section, allowing the novel to be read as a collection of briefly linked short stories. Still, the compact chapters do not detract from the relatability of their struggles, as each of them face some form of turbulence.
As I made my way over to The Scribe one autumnal morning, I was struck by the serenity of the scene before me. Even in November, I could still wear my favorite wool coat and sneakers—a rarity for all Torontonians. A few struggling leaves still clung to their branches, while the Danforth was littered with specks of orange and red. A morning without class worked its usual cure on my psyche, leaving me feeling uncharacteristically smug, smiling to myself on the street—like someone who has never heard the word “midterm” or “exam” in their life.