Interested in meeting the author? We’re hosting Alan Lightman for a Book Club breakfast in Toronto on February 16, 2012 at 8:30am! If you’d like to attend, please comment below (you must be logged in to your account to comment). Spaces are limited, so it’s a first-come, first-served basis. Only those selected to attend will be contacted by Chatelaine with further details. Note: Participants are responsible for their own accommodation and transportation to and from the event.
Mr g: A Novel About the Creation, $27.
“As I remember, I had just woken up from a nap when I decided to create the universe.” Undoubtedly one of the best openings ever, this arresting sentence begins this story of the Creation as told by God (a.k.a. Mr g). Much of Mr g’s invention involves the trial and error method, with each step producing unforeseen consequences — some hilarious, some more than a little frightening and some creating change in the Creator himself.
After spending untold, untroubled millenniums wandering about with his aunt Penelope and uncle Deva in the shimmering Void — where nothing exists but parcels of emptiness, nothing occurs but thoughts and nothing ever changes — Mr g decides it is time to get busy and create something. He begins with time and space, then moves on to matter, of which his first creation is a three-legged chair for his frequently cranky aunt. Soon there are an infinite number of universes whizzing around the Void. After being paid a visit by the mysterious stranger Belhor, an intelligent, complex devil character who challenges every assumption and asserts the necessity of evil, Mr g settles on just one universe: his favourite, which he names Aalam-104729 (Aalam is an Arabic word meaning “world” or “universe”; the number is random). As the millenniums continue to unfold, along come stars, planets, animate matter, consciousness and, finally, intelligence beings to populate this singular and familiar universe.
Always interested in exploring reality and the human condition in surreal and magical settings, Lightman credits Italo Calvino’s Cosmicomics as a source of inspiration for Mr g. Lightman became fascinated by the idea of a group of celestial beings who could view creation on a grand-scale while also caring about the small details of being human. Mr g brings science, philosophy, theology and ethical issues together within one narrative framework. Although science is a very powerful mode of inquiry, Lightman says, there are many interesting questions that can be approached only by travelling beyond its domain: “We need both questions with answers and questions without answers. Both kinds of questions are an important part of being human.” Describing himself as a “spiritual atheist,” Lightman believes in the existence of things larger than himself, the value of beauty in the world and the need to live by certain principles, many of which are considered the province of religion.
The power of science and religion, the personalities of both God and the Devil: How can we reconcile these opposing concepts?
Diane Schoemperlen is a Governor General’s Award–winning author. Alan Lightman’s Einstein’s Dreams is one of her favourite books.