“The best metaphor for our DNA…”

The best metaphor for our DNA is literature. Like all classic literary texts, our genome is defined not by the certainty of its meaning, but by its linguistic instability, its ability to encourage a multiplicity of interpretations. What makes a novel or a poem immortal is its innate complexity, the way every reader discovers in the same words a different story.

~ Jonah Lehrer, Proust Was a Neuroscientist

I’m not sure I totally (or even mostly) agree with this. I think sometimes what makes a novel or poem immortal is the fact that among all of the multiplicity of interpretations that a particular sequence of words could convey, occasionally a piece of literature manages to evoke a common experience in its readers, something they can speak about, write about, and share with one another. But Lehrer sure does sound smooth and winning, and I’m enjoying his book (which is, incidentally, a rather slim paperback).


One thought on ““The best metaphor for our DNA…”

  1. Perhaps it is just that we DO speak, write and share our personal responses that affirms what Lehrer is saying. In so doing we make ourselves known to each other through the piece of literature (which first provided us with more insight into our own being, sense of meaning, values, whatever.

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