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The Abbey of Theleme

After listening to architect and rock climber Emily Whiting talk about gothic architecture, which I love, I took a look at her website and list of publications. They include the intriguing “Digital Reconstruction” and “4D Presentation through Time,” the animated movie “Portals,” which allows the visitor to wander among monuments and statues and fly inside Renaissance paintings. In “Detailed 3D Modeling of Castles,” she and collaborators digitally documented heritage sites.

Rabelais was grosser, but Emily is a far better builder.

I think Emily has a special fondness for ecclesiastical architecture, just as I do, so I wondered what she might think about the fictional “Abbey of Theleme.” The tale is part of the series of stories collectively called “Gargantua,” by Francois Rabelais, the 16th-century satirical writer of the wild, grotesque, and bawdy. And though my ruminations started with the gaudy architecture of Theleme, I was lured off topic when I read about the gate leading into it. Upon the gate was inscribed a list of the kinds of people allowed inside and, most interestingly, the kinds of people barred from entry (vile bigots, hypocrites, externally devoted apes, base snites, puffed-up, wry-necked beasts, Ostrogoths, forerunners of baboons, dissembled varlets, seeming-sancts, slipshod caffards, and fat chuffcats)!

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Sherry Austin

    Sherry Austin was nine years old when she admitted, during a class discussion, that evolution was possible. After school a bunch of bullies arrived on bikes at her house to beat her up if she didn’t recant. She didn’t. Forty years later, she had published three books of fiction and was traveling regionally giving a talk for the North Carolina Humanities Council on literary nonfiction about science when a neurodegenerative illness put a stop to that. These days, along with (and sometimes in spite of!) her comic alter-ego Trixie Goforth, she works what’s left of her brain to share her wonder about the natural world revealed to us by science. She values the work of scientists more than she can say. And you can find out more about Sherry at her website.