I never thought much about astrology until my first wife fell in love with a German named Nils. As our ailing marriage went terminal, I took to buying armloads of fashion magazines not for pretty pictures, which made me only more miserable, but for the horoscopes. I didn’t consider myself a believer; still, the stargazers seemed to speak to me personally. They explained that as a Pisces I was sensitive, poetic and spaced-out, while my wife, a Scorpio, was passionate, secretive and vengeful. They promised that the planets would realign – that my pain would be a prelude to rebirth.
That summer I landed in a bachelor studio in Brooklyn, and soon I met a woman I liked too much. I’d planned to sow acres of wild oats before risking my lacerated heart, but on the first date we blabbed until sunrise. The next day, I called to invite her for a walk in the park. Then I paced the apartment in my boxers, too full of terror to decide what else to wear. At last, inspiration struck: Joyce Jillson’s horoscope line “Hello, Pisces”, chirped the recording. “Today’s lucky color is tangerine”. By chance (or perhaps fate), a shirt of that hue lay in my dresser drawer. The walk was very pleasant. Three years later, in that same park, Julie and I were married.
That should be the end of the story. Recently, however, I found myself at one of life’s four-way intersections. I was turning 40; Julie was turning 30; she was switching programs in grad school; we were trying to decide when to have a kid. This time I considered consulting a stargazer in person. When I mentioned the idea to an editor I’ll call Irving, he was outraged. “Do you actually believe in this garbage?” he asked. “I don’t know”, I said. “How can an educated person”, he huffed, “at the end of the century that has produced more scientific knowledge than all previous centuries combined, contemplate blowing 150 bucks on a load of superstitious piffle?” “I don’t know”, I said.
Irving’s questions had gotten to me, and started doing some digging. It turns out astrology is experiencing its biggest boom in 400 years. According to a recent poll, just 20 percent of Americans are flat- out nonbelievers; 48 percent say astrology is probably or definitely valid. The first newspapers horoscopes appeared in the ‘30s; now they run in the vast majority of dailies. Twenty years ago there were an estimated 1,000 professional astrologers in the United States; today there are something like 5,000. In 1968, when Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs became the first astrological best seller, the annual market for astrology books was around five million. Today, it is closer to 20 million. Neatniks can surf thousands of Web sites, including venues devoted to pet horoscopes of serial killers.
It’s not hard to discern a few zeitgeisty reasons for the upsurge. The end of a century – not to mention a millennium – is a time for reckoning with destiny, one of those anxious junctures when soothsayers of all sorts have a field day. (Consider Heaven’s Gate) And though its roots stretch back to Babylon, astrology is a form of soothsaying suited to our science-drenched era. It speaks a high-tech language of degrees and lunations; its practitioners rely on astronomical charts and, lately, laptops instead of crystal balls. Moreover, at a moment when science is aping science fiction – cloned sheep, life on Mars, apocalyptic asteroids – the notion that astrology might work seem plausible.
Yet, dozens of scientific studious say it doesn’t work. And so the mystery remains: Is there anything to this hoary art, or are millions of us simply kidding ourselves? I decided not to consult an astrology after all. I would consult many astrologers. I would plumb their philosophy, examine their latest methods, inspect the evidence for their claims. I would see if they could help me past my personal crossroads. And I would try to learn along the way if they had anything to show the world.
Task 1. Chose the best option to answer the question:
- What is the writer trying to do in paragraph 1?
- complain about his wife’s behavior.
- explain how he became interested in astrology.
- make readers buy more fashion magazines.
- prove that he is a sensitive and a poetic person.
- What attracted the writer in horoscopes?
- The horoscopes could explain everything that was happening to him.
- The horoscopes helped him not to feel miserable.
- The fact that the horoscopes were easily available.
- The manner in which astrologers addressed the readers in horoscopes.
- What does the writer try to make clear in paragraph 2?
- A horoscope seemed to help him in his relationship with Julie.
- He couldn’t marry his new girlfriend without consulting a horoscope.
- One should always listen to the horoscope to choose what to wear on a particular day.
- Pisces should wear something of tangerine color when going for a date.
- What did the writer feel like when his wife left him?
- He wanted to make love to as many girls as he could.
- He hoped that the stars could help him.
- He lost all interest in life.
- He felt that he would never marry again.
- What made the “editor I’ll call Irving” so outraged (paragraph 3)?
- The fact that the writer met an astrologer personally.
- The idea of an educated person being superstitious.
- The price of an astrologer’s services.
- The writer’s uncertainty about his attitude to astrology.
- What did the writer do after the talk with “Irving”?
- He began to investigate the subject of astrology in detail.
- He organized a poll to study the Americans’ attitude to astrology.
- He started to look for Internet sites devoted to astrology.
- He studied all the newspaper horoscopes starting with ‘30s.
- What do the facts mentioned in paragraph 4 testify to?
- The media dependence on astrology.
- The growing professionalism of astrologers.
- The growth of astrology’s popularity in the last years.
- The victory of astrology books on the book market.
- What is, according to the writer, the reason for people’s interest in astrology?
- Astrologers started to use modern technology for their predictions.
- Astrology has adjusted itself to modern conditions perfectly.
- People began to recognize astrology as a science.
- People need something to reassure them when certain time periods come to the end.
Task 2. Choose the rght ending of the statements and give more details from the text:
- Some facts mentioned in paragraph 5 suggest that astrology …
- is a modern science.
- started thousands of years ago.
- is interesting only for the people in trouble.
- is as important as any other science.
- In the last paragraph of the passage the writer explains …
- what he decided to do for his further study of the subject.
- why he decided not to consult an astrologer.
- why he thinks that astrology remains a big mystery.
- why the scientists don’t trust astrology.
Task 3. Vote for any of the suggestions to the statement:
“The stars have a strong effect on our daily lives.”
— I really believe in this, in fact, astrology helps me to be more social/to find a partner
— I quite think so, but prefer only horoscopes with good news
— It’s not for me: don’t like to be programmed
— Your own variant
Answers: task 1: b, d, a, b, a, c, a, d; task 2: d, a.
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