Congrats to Janna Levin

By Sean Carroll | May 23, 2007 11:23 am

A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines Somewhat overdue congratulations to Janna Levin, whose novel A Madman Dreams of Turing Machines has been awarded one of the 2007 PEN Literary Awards. (Via Edge, via 3QD.) In particular:

The PEN/Robert Bingham Fellowship for Writers honors an exceptionally talented fiction writer whose debut work — a novel or collection of short stories published in 2006 — represents distinguished literary achievement and suggests great promise.

The Bingham Fellowship is one of two big-money (well, over $10,000, which is big money by literary standards) awards given out by the PEN American Center each year; the other is the PEN/Saul Bellow Award for Achievement in American Fiction, which this year went to Philip Roth. Not bad company.

Janna is a good friend, and her novel about Alan Turing and Kurt Godel is an extraordinarily imaginative achievement. Most importantly, she is a working scientist who refuses to let her curiosity be restricted by the narrow parameters of her day job. In principle, there’s no reason why one person shouldn’t be able to write technical papers about cosmology and black holes and create successful literary fiction at the same time; in practice, however, modern intellectual life is not set up to reward that kind of wide-ranging work, and it takes a great deal of conscious effort to resist falling into one of the comfortable pigeon-holes that academia provides. Here’s looking forward to her next book!

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Science and Society, Words
  • Changcho

    Thanks for the heads-up; with a title like that this book deserves to be read!

    “In principle, there’s no reason why one person shouldn’t be able to write technical papers about cosmology and black holes and create successful literary fiction at the same time; in practice, however, modern intellectual life is not set up to reward that kind of wide-ranging work, and it takes a great deal of conscious effort to resist falling into one of the comfortable pigeon-holes that academia provides.”

    C. Sagan also did this with his first (and only?) novel ‘Contact’.

  • Rob

    Wow. Now I feel like a complete slacker!

    I look forward to reading her work, thanks for telling us about it.

  • http://lablemminglounge.blogspot.com/ Lab Lemming

    forget the pigeon holes, what about the number of hours on the clock!?

    That’s awesome. Onya, Janna.

  • Mark Hudson

    I’ve just been browsing the reviews on Amazon.com. A fair number of them are positive, but I have had more fun reading the critical ones. After reading your comments, above, and the blurb on the book’s jacket, I was tempted to give this novel a read. But one particular 2-star review on Amazon, in which the first few sentences of the book are quoted, has rather put me off.

    I’m all for interesting prose, but I did find those quoted sentences to be rather too much to digest.

    I shall no doubt read the book anyway; a set of polarised reviews does suggest an entertaining time.

  • Jim Miles

    That last paragraph from “Most importantly” to the end is so amazingly spot on it’s almost unbelievable.

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Cosmic Variance

Random samplings from a universe of ideas.

About Sean Carroll

Sean Carroll is a Senior Research Associate in the Department of Physics at the California Institute of Technology. His research interests include theoretical aspects of cosmology, field theory, and gravitation. His most recent book is The Particle at the End of the Universe, about the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs boson. Here are some of his favorite blog posts, home page, and email: carroll [at] cosmicvariance.com .

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