Monday, February 11, 2008

Fame, the Sequel

In January, I wrote about how even 'famous' professors aren't famous in a side-of-the-bus kind of way. In that particular anecdote, a childhood friend of my husband's had become name-on-the-side-of-the-bus famous owing to his success as a contemporary artist.

In a strange twist of fate, although my husband and I have not achieved side-of-the-bus fame in the past month,
we have nevertheless both recently had unusual experiences involving the intersection of our lives with Art.

In my case, part of my research has been incorporated into a visual artwork. I am pleased by this because something that I find intellectually beautiful is now part of something that is beautiful in a different way.

In the case of my husband, the situation is more complicated: we recently learned that he is a character in book written about another childhood friend. In the book, which is semi-biographical, the author changed the spelling of my husband's name slightly, but phonetically it is the same.


I immediately acquired the book and scanned it for the juicy parts -- i.e., the parts that mention my spouse. Although I did not know him in his youth, various aspects of his personality are quite recognizable, even though he is a 5th grader when he first appears in the book.


My husband refuses to read this book. He doesn't mind if I tell him about an incident or person in the book, but he doesn't want to discuss it or give his point of view on any incident or person. He says he doesn't want to read what someone else's imagination decided he was like as a kid. I can understand that. I would be unnerved if I showed up in someone else's book, especially if, like this one, the book is a
roman à clef. And who would want their tween to teenage years enshrined in Literature?

Neither of us actually had a choice about having our life/work incorporated into the Art of others, but overall, I think I got the better deal of the two of us.

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

I also enjoy the interaction between science and art. My first postdoc was with a professor who was also an artist. He was incredibly creative and I learned from him how much it helps to look at research data from an artistic point of view. I would love to present some of my research results at an "art" venue. Does anyone have ideas how to get into the art scene with research results?

Anonymous said...

One of my mom's old friends wrote a book and based a character on her. She was excited to read it until she read the description of her as something like, "striking, but not beautiful," and then went on to say that men liked her because she was overtly sexual. She then decided that she didn't care how an overtly religious, stuffy man portrayed her in a Christian lit book, and promptly threw it away.

Anonymous said...

In Ann Arbor, MI, every summer there is a huge "art" festival. I have it in quotes because not all of what is for sale is necessarily very creative. However, one of the coolest booths is always the UM Center for Organogenesis booth: they sell beautiful photographs of various tissues and cells to raise money for graduate student training.

Here's a link.

I really agree with your comment, FSP, on how pleasing it is when something is both aesthetically and intellectually beautiful.

EcoGeoFemme said...

Last year, one of the professional society meetings I attended had a symposium on science-in-art. I didn't go because it conflicted with a session I was more interested in but people said it was good. Anon 1, maybe you should look for/organize something like that.

FSP, yet more evidence of what an extraordinary life you lead!

Ms.PhD said...

I have mixed emotions about this.

Some of my work that we submitted for 'cover art' when a paper was accepted was not chosen for the cover, but was later incorporated into 'art' and sold for charity.

I thought it was strange, though, since my co-author had done the 'artistic' arrangement, and I didn't think it was particularly artistic (and apparently neither did the people choosing the cover for that journal?).

To the anon who asked, several scientific companies run contests for scientific art every year. They're advertised in Science and Nature. They have both the 'result' kind and the 'artistic representation of science' (i.e. cartoon or diagram) kind of contest.

I can't imagine being in someone else's book, although I had a couple of friends who were featured in a book by a schoolmate of ours, and I didn't think the descriptions were very accurate.

But I've thought a lot about writing my own version of events, and how it would probably piss off everyone I've ever met if I were to write honestly!

That would probably even worse for my budding scientific career than an anonymous blog. I keep thinking I'll do it when my funding runs out. Any day now.

grevillea said...

I've been told that de Gennes was "side of the bus famous" in France. Of course, I'm not French, so I wouldn't really know (but my French housemate, who was a political philosopher certainly knew who he was).

Anonymous said...

In light of

In that particular anecdote, a childhood friend of my husband's had become name-on-the-side-of-the-bus famous owing to his success as a contemporary artist.


and

In the case of my husband, the situation is more complicated: we recently learned that he is a character in book written about another childhood friend.

I have to ask: what on earth is the childhood history of your husband? Did he attend some magnet school or something? If just one childhood friend of mine became a famous artist or had a book written about him, I'd be shocked and deeply impressed.

Female Science Professor said...

He went to public schools, nothing special -- some of his pseudo-famous friends are from school and some are from summer camp experiences.