In Chapter Four, Diana returns to the library… to find that Matthew Clairmont has taken her preferred seat. She reacts poorly. Matthew is studying the Needham Papers – which he claims to want to consult for Dr. Needham’s observations on morphogenesis. Diana cuts Matthew off before he tells the reader what morphogenesis actually is – but that’s why I’m here. Morphogenesis, for us non-science people, is the process by which biological form and structure are generated. Morphogenesis addresses the question of how tissues are generated and maintained as well as how they decay and regenerate. This Human Biology for Dummies entry gives an overview of what this looks like in a human zygote. I admit – I searched “morphogenesis for dummies” and this was one of the first results. I don’t mean to insult y’all, of course – biology isn’t really in my wheelhouse. I assume that Matthew’s appearance in the library serves two purposes – one, it annoys Diana and allows him to keep an eye on her. Second, the Needham Papers could contribute to his ongoing research on differentiation between creatures and, specifically, how vampires transform genetically at rebirth and maintain their physical integrity over the course of a very, very, very long life.
It always amuses me that Diana notes Matthew’s very expensive mechanical pencil. From the text, it’s not clear whether she’s annoyed because it’s so pricey or because she can hear the lead on the paper. Either way, she’s having A Day.
Then, that witch shows up.
Clairmont moved so quickly I didn’t see him round the desks. In an instant he was standing with one hand on the back of my chair and the other resting on the surface in front of me. His broad shoulders were curved around me like the wings of a falcon shielding his prey.
Diana compares Matthew to a falcon displaying mantling behavior. Mantling is the way that raptor birds protect a recent kill – they put a great deal of energy and effort into each hunt, so protecting their prey from other, more aggressive birds is a necessary survival skill.
Rowing was a religion for me, composed of a set of rituals and movements repeated until they became a meditation.
In this chapter, Diana works out her frustration on the River Thames, which is known as the River Isis in Oxford. According to Wikipedia, this derives from the ancient name for the Thames – the Tamesis – and the name is “especially used in the context of rowing at the University of Oxford.” Rowing as a sport began in Britain in the 18th century. The annual Oxford-Cambridge race began in 1829 and gave birth to the modern Olympic sport of competitive rowing.
Diana rows a single scull.
In Chapter Five, we meet the energetic, brilliant, and intellectually curious Chris Roberts, who became Diana’s friend when he tried to re-create an alchemical experiment for her in his lab. It’s not far-fetched.
As for the wolves, there was an uproar a few years ago when Norway proposed culling its wolf population. According to the Norwegian Environmental Agency, the wolf is red-listed as critically endangered. Biologists study the Norwegian wolf because its “one of the genetically most well characterized examples of a severely bottlenecked natural population.” The wolves are inbred, which makes it difficult for them to survive from generation to generation without genetic input from Swedish, Russian, and Finnish wolves. This is likely the crucial link that Diana’s missing from Matthew’s research to create the full picture, from differentiation to behavior to extinction.
Deb’s post about this day in ADOW is here. You can find the Daemon’s Domain episode that talks about this chapter here, or check out the All Souls Podcast here. Our podcast on Chapters 4-5 is Episode 2-Why So Angry?
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