Thursday, December 16, 2010




1 : resembling a worm in form or motion
2 : of, relating to, or caused by worms

At the beginning of this year I took a pre-modern Science Fiction Literature course, which looked at the zygotes of the genre. Graduate students had to do a presentation for the class based on a piece of seventeenth century sci-fi literature from outside the syllabus of coursework. I stumbled upon a pamphlet titled, VERMICULARS Destroyed, in which the author (a chemist) advertised his ability to eliminate intestinal worms using some of his "powders." This piece proved relevant to my coursework since the text repeatedly cited the use of the then-revolutionary microscope—a device through which new worlds were revealed. In this case, it was the world of worms, a.k.a. VERMICULARS, a once invisible threat now magnified into images of larger-than-life creatures with multiple legs, and occasionally multiple heads. What the author may have been witnessing, in many cases, was bacteria.

I also read a great VERMICULAR essay titled, "Thinking About Earthworms," by David Quammen. He discusses Darwin's oft ignored last book, The Formation of Vegetable Mould, Through the Action of Worms. Quammen says, "The most interesting thing about the book, in my view, is simply that this particular man took the trouble to write it. At the time, evolution by natural selection was the hottest idea in science; yet Charles Darwin spent his last year of work thinking about earthworms." The essay goes on to encourage readers to spend some time thinking about things that aren't thought about on a grand scale. I was inspired by this piece. I tend to notice and think about things seemingly insignificant in nature. Sometimes I dwell on a random image—a tear in a billboard, an abandoned pair of shoes, a published typo—for a long time."Pick a subject so perversely obscure that it can't help but have neglected significance," he says. Recently I received a bill or notice of some sort on the back of which was printed the phrase: This page left intentionally blank.

Tonight I think about this intention.

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