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The Quilty Reader

Lawyer, mother, avid reader. Game host extraordinaire! Partner in crime to Obsidian Black Plague! My bookish weaknesses include classics, fantasy, YA, and agreeing to read more books than is even remotely possible.

My moment of geek

The Murder at the Vicarage - Agatha Christie
One of my reading projects for 2017 is the Miss Marple series by Agatha Christie. I've read a number of them already, but some of them it has been a very long time. I've never been as fond of Jane Marple as I am of Hercule Poirot.

However, I want to talk about a thing that happened to me in December. My office had put together an elimination of bias training for the lawyers. The training was presented by a psychologist who works for the University of Oregon - and he started the training by talking about bias in the context of the human brain. He went on to talk about how the human brain is absolutely masterful at categorizing things - our minds can observe a penguin, an eagle, an ostrich and a finch, and we immediately recognize and categorize all of them as birds although they bear very little physical resemblance to one another. From an evolutionary perspective, this is a remarkable feat. He talked about how easy it would be to write a computer program to recognize the color blue in an image, and how difficult it would be to write a computer program to recognize a bird in an image because computers aren't nearly as good at categorizing things as the human brain.

This is all super interesting as it relates to bias, of course, because our brains are constantly categorizing things - including people - and if we aren't careful with our categorizing it can turn into unconscious (or conscious) discrimination.

As he was explaining all of this, I had this personal moment of geek, where I thought to myself - aha. That's exactly what Agatha Christie has Miss Marple doing. She is exercising her skills of categorization in ways that are simultaneously broader and narrower than the way that an average person categorizes. Marple doesn't categorize by social class or sex or wealth so much as she categorizes by event and psychology, drawing parallels between, perhaps, the fish monger's crush on a post mistress and the murderer's attraction to the victim's sister.

All of this is simply to say that Agatha Christie was clearly a woman ahead of her time. I did manage to keep my mouth shut during the training, and not burst out with "OMG, that's exactly what Miss Marple does, except it's different because . . ." and out myself as the total dork that I am. I was pretty proud of myself for that.

Anyway, about this book. It's fine - introducing us to Miss Jane Marple, who isn't nearly as sweet as you think she is.