Mystics, Madmen or Cunning Frauds

Sep 20, 2020

    

Can a blind astronomer, who claims to use the longest telescope in the world, accurately predict an eclipse?  Does it take a madman to truly "see" reality? What is the nature of tasty dumplings?

On this episode, we speak with author Adam Ehrlich Sachs who explores these questions in his satiric novel The Organs of Sense

In the novel, a young nineteen-year-old G. W. Leibniz, after failing his dissertation, treks through the snowy mountains of Bohemia to investigate a mystery: can a blind astronomer, who claims to use the longest telescope in the world, accurately predict an eclipse? 

"In an account sent to the Philosophical Transactions but for some reason never published there, or anywhere else, a young G. W. Leibniz, who throughout his life was an assiduous inquirer into miracles and other aberrations of nature, related the odd and troubling encounter he had with a certain astronomer who'd predicted that on noon on the last day of June 1666, the brightest time of the day at nearly the brightest time of the year, the Moon would pass very briefly, but precisely, between the Sun and the Earth, casting all of Europe for one instant in absolute darkness. . ."

Author Adam Ehrlich Sachs

Adam Ehrlich Sachs is the author of the collection Inherited Disorders: Stories, Parables & Problems, which was a semifinalist for the Thurber Prize for American Humor and a finalist for the Sami Rohr Prize for Jewish Literature. The Organs of Sense, his second book, was published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux and is now out in paperback from Picador.

His work has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's Magazine and n+1, and he was named a 2018 NEA Literature Fellow. He has a degree in the history of science from Harvard, where he was a member of The Harvard Lampoon

Emmy nominated composer Amos Cochran
Credit Andrew Camarillo

A special thank you to U.A. Little Rock Emeritus Professor of English James Levernier for voicing the astronomer. 

Music for the episode was provided by Amos Cochran, an Emmy nominated composer, musician, and sound artist. His compositions for film, theater, radio, and television have received many honors, including a 2010 Kennedy Center Excellence in Composing Award and a premier at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival.

In 2019, Cochran was commissioned by Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art to create a sound piece for its groundbreaking outdoor exhibition Color Field, and he was selected by global creative house Justkids to be an official artist of the award-winning Unexpected Urban and Contemporary Art Festival.

Thank you to the indie pop duo, Monsterboy, for their song "The End of The World" featured in the episode. By pairing traditional instruments with rock and EDM elements, their brand of alt-hybrid-pop resonates with the “music misfit” and “band nerd” in us all. The chemistry between the members Chris Long and Veronica Wirges lies at the heart of their performances, a musical love story that captivates their audiences. 

Thank you to Stickyz Rock 'N' Roll Chicken Shack for keeping music alive and well in Arkansas.

Generous funding for this episode was provided by the Arkansas Humanities Council and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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Executive Producer & Host: J. Bradley Minnick

Producer & Story Editor: Mary Ellen Kubit

Sound Mastering: Simon Sound Studio

Recorded by: Mary Ellen Kubit