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everything and more

January 8, 2011

Sometime last year, I was told that David Foster Wallace had written a book about mathematics.  This amazing fact hit my ears, stuck in my head for a short period, and then vanished.  Over the break, I found it in a bookstore, vaguely remembering that someone had recommended it once upon a time.  Earlier today, I unpacked a bag and found it yet again.  Since the third time is the charm, I began reading.

After five (5!) pages, I will give it my highest recommendations.

Point the first:  David Foster Wallace is an amazing author.  If he wrote something, you should read it.

Point the second:  Infinity is a concept that should and does confuse everyone in the world.  “A big number” is nowhere near enough of an explanation to describe how to conceptualize an idea as complex and beautiful as infinity.  There is no reference that makes it simpler, only more well-defined.

Point the third:  David Foster Wallace sticks up for mathematicians in the first pages.  He notes that he isn’t a math guy himself, and then puts up this aggressively respectful tone that made me paw through the pages.

The book is filled with IYI, or “If you’re interested,” for those that want to learn more about the mathematics behind the ideas.  Which I am.  I feel like this book may have been written for me, with all of the ideas and concepts and beauty and amazingness.

Two things I have trouble describing are infinity and the writing of DFW.  Having them both together is excellent.  Do yourself a favor and read this book.

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