Two Roads Diverged: Sheila Heti's MOTHERHOOD, Leonard Mlodinow on ELASTIC, and In the Stacks with Martin Patrick

October 28th, 2018


Elastic thinking, says theoretical physicist Leonard Mlodinow, isn’t about following but inventing rules, trading analytic for elastic thought, in order to adapt in an endlessly dynamic world, with non-linear approaches to life and work together. On this episode of Open Stacks, we pave new roads not taken, trajectories informed by social practice, social pressure, and the self at one remove, in conversations with Mlodinow on Elastic; art critic and historian Martin Patrick on books that stretched his notion of performance and identity in Across the Art/Life Divide; and booksellers on Canadian writer Sheila Heti's life-changing novel, Motherhood.

Leonard Mlodinow at the Co-op, March 29, 2018.

"When I started writing Elastic, it confused me—I kept running into articles in the Harvard Business Review and other business journals about how people have a natural aversion to change. The psychology literature, meanwhile, spoke of the human attraction to novelty and change. Psychologists have a word for it, “neophilia.” It is what encouraged our prehistoric ancestors to explore and experiment even when their lives were just fine."

—Mlodinow in Scientific American

Martin Patrick in the stacks. Find the books he spoke about (plus a few extras) linked below.

Bookseller Alena's much discussed annotations of Sheila Heti's Motherhood.

Heti herself spoke about the book with the Paris Review, explaining why she chose the novel form and more:

"A novel to me indicates the kind of intelligence you use to shape it and to create it, and that it’s a form apart from your life. For me, a memoir is supposed to be understood as a representation of your life. Whereas a novel is self-consciously symbolic. I want this book to be read with an openness toward symbolic associations. How do I put it? I feel like when you read a memoir, you map what you read onto that person’s life and your life, but when you read a novel, you map it also onto an imaginative world. A novel takes up more space."

This episode's title, as you may have recognized, comes from Robert Frost.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;


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