The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Monday, May 30, 2011

Are Jane Austen and Charles Dickens science fiction?

Now, my title question might strike you as bizarre, if you know the least thing about literature. However, it is a question that my life experience posed for me, recently.

A couple of weeks ago, I was in the Times Bookshop in Sri Hartamas, in Kuala Lumpur. I had gone in search of a book for Ainan. (He wanted a copy of Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams, since he had enjoyed Life, the Universe and Everything. Of course, I already have copy many thousands of miles away in England, but that is not much use to me here!) So, there I was browsing the shelves for Douglas Adams’ work. Despite the most careful search, it was clear that they didn’t have a single book by the amusing Mr. Adams. However, they did have something most strange. In a very prominent position, on the top shelf of the Science Fiction and Fantasy section, was a pile of books by Jane Austen. You know the ones: such “science fiction” classics as Emma and Pride and Prejudice. Next to this, were some books by Charles Dickens, such as A tale of two cities. At this sight, I pause a moment, in reverence at the stupendous obtuseness, of the person who had categorized these books so.

Did I miss something? Has period literature of the 18th and 19th century been reclassified as “Science Fiction/ Fantasy”, whilst I was looking elsewhere? Is the modern attitude to the past so distorted, that works of relative realism about past times, can now be seen as so outlandish that they must be filed in “Science Fiction/Fantasy”?

This incident does make me wonder, however, whether the bookshop assistant who did this, is actually able to read the books he or she so files. Are they completely unable to recognize what type of book, a book is, from a brief glance? Do they not know the reputations of some of the most famous authors in history? I would have thought that anyone who had studied English literature for even the most basic qualification, would be familiar with the type of oeuvre of famed authors, even if not with the works themselves. Perhaps this incident is an indicator that a little more effort, in the education system, could be put into the humanities. Like most parts of Asia, the sciences and maths are emphasized, often to the detriment of all else. This is harmful. A scientist who does not read, is probably one who cannot write – and that is one who cannot communicate his or her work. I would suggest, therefore, that an appreciation of literature be inculcated, in Malaysia’s youngsters, in addition to their grasp of maths and science. Otherwise, oddly categorized books, in bookstores will be the least of Malaysia’s problems with its workforce, in the long term.

It should be noted that, although I saw this happen in Malaysia, that it is very easy to believe it could happen in Singapore, too and other South East Asian countries. Here, in Asia, science and maths are all - and the rest can often be forgotten, to an unfortunate degree.

(If you would like to support my continued writing of this blog and my ongoing campaign to raise awareness about giftedness and all issues pertaining to it, please donate, by clicking on the gold button to the left of the page.

To read about my fundraising campaign, please go to:
and here:

If you would like to read any of our scientific research papers, there are links to some of them, here:

If you would like to see an online summary of my academic achievements to date, please go here:

To learn more of Ainan Celeste Cawley, 10, or his gifted brothers, Fintan, 7 and Tiarnan, 5, please go to:

I also write of gifted education, child prodigy, child genius, adult genius, savant, megasavant, HELP University College, the Irish, the Malays, Singapore, Malaysia, IQ, intelligence and creativity.

There is a review of my blog, on the respected The Kindle Report here:

Please have a read, if you would like a critic's view of this blog. Thanks. You can get my blog on your Kindle, for easy reading, wherever you are, by going to:

Please let all your fellow Kindlers know about my blog availability - and if you know my blog well enough, please be so kind as to write a thoughtful review of what you like about it. Thanks.

My Internet Movie Database listing is at:

Ainan's IMDB listing is at

Syahidah's IMDB listing is at

Our editing, proofreading and copywriting company, Genghis Can, is at

This blog is copyright Valentine Cawley. Unauthorized duplication is prohibited. Use only with permission. Thank you.)

Labels: , , , , ,

AddThis Social Bookmark Button
posted by Valentine Cawley @ 12:19 PM 


Blogger Zeyrie said...

Dear sir

My name is Zairi Zakaria (29) Malaysia

I'm just curious, are you or any of your children interested in the topic of antigravity and zero point energy ? If you do please email me.

my email

10:30 AM  
Blogger Adelaide Dupont said...


I don't know that "genre shelving" is very useful in any bookshop.

It may be more useful in the library, where browser's searches can be very genre focused.

Most of the books I want to find are in "Literature" or "Fiction", after I go to the bargain table.

For more specialised books, I try to make a specialised search.

And books do not always reveal themselves at a quick glance! If you do give them a quick glance, they can be rejected.

Putting Jane Austen into her "standard" genre - romance - is probably no more nonsensical than "science fiction".

And I would like to see more humanities in Asia, and more humanity too.

The first thing on a bookshop's mind would be sales and service. Thus genres are often moved around according to how much they might sell.

So the classics might well be put on a "red light special" to attract people to them.

There are probably some good blogs about librarians and cataloging/shelving: their rationale for doing this.

(one of the blogs I enjoy reading which shows what happens if we do not rationalise our collections: Awful Library Books).

11:48 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Hi Zeyrie,

Thanks for the offer. I will drop you a line and see what you have to say.

11:50 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thanks for your insights Adelaide into shelving policies and problems.

Re. humanity in Asia...yes, in some circumstances, it can be lacking, in some of the people and some aspects of society. Perhaps the lack of respect for the humanities is a sign of trouble?

Happy reading.

11:52 AM  
Blogger Adelaide Dupont said...

Thank you Mr Cawley!

I've had to revise my view a little.

Perhaps in a technical/academic bookshop, shelving may be considered.

But labelling weblinks for instance with their broad topic: "Psychology"; "Sociology"; "Biology"; "Physics" - has alerted me to some of the problems.

(Consider the difference between tags and categories in folksonomy).

I don't know.

Fiction should all be fiction, so that people would read widely.

At the same time certain fiction appeals to certain audiences.

Children's bookshops and second-hand bookshops tend to be more sensitive to the problem.

(And a good Library/Information Sciences training can mitigate if not ameliorate the problem).

You might well find Douglas Adams under "Comedy" or "Humour".

12:14 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Yes. You are right. I hadn't considered the possibility that Douglas Adams might not be in Sci Fi for a good being elsewhere.

Your view of shelving is interesting. I have found that when I go to the library book sale in Singapore, I find very interesting books, precisely because of the very broad categorization of the works (fiction and non-fiction, for instance). So, it does have its merits.

Then again, if one is in a hurry, it really helps if relatively narrow categories have been used...

1:59 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape