When Literature Fraternizes with Mathematics

My mind rejects numbers.

I only do math if I have to: figuring out the tip at a restaurant, calculating the time of arrival for a drive to the big city.

But now there are Apps for both.

It’s sad but true, but there was a time when I would withdraw five dollars from the bank machine just to see what my balance was…but now I can just go online.

The “numbers” part of my brain has been seriously stagnating as of late


it hasn’t always been this way.

When I was young (before I hit double digits) I enjoyed math with the multiplication table taped to the refrigerator, practicing the “six times” table with my father (and getting all of them right) and the nine times table with my mother (and getting most of them wrong).

I enjoyed the language of word problems introduced in junior high, viewing them as mini-mysteries (how old WAS Joe if his sister was born four years after his cousin Henry who was born two months shy of a decade younger than Joe?).

But then

math all got fuzzy.

The steps the teacher wrote on the board didn’t seem to make sense; there didn’t seem any rhyme or reason to the logic. Maybe that was it…there was no rhyme, I saw no art and had no emotional connection

other than confusion.

And my average dropped. I did end up graduating with the math course I needed but I waiting for my exam results was an exercise in torture.

Now, my mind turns to mush when I sit in front of my banker and he talks of compound interest and amortization. If I have to count money from fundraisers I start over and over again because my thoughts drift to colour and metaphor and numbers slip smoothly from my focus and I eventually have to find someone to do the counting for me.

And just to add insult to imagery, the news this evening ran a story of a shown a  dog in China who can solve simple division.

Not to be outdone by a canine, I’ve downloaded Sudoku to my iPad just to keep the “numbers” part of my brain in shape. I’ve researched “the mathematics of poetry” so I can FEEL something for numbers.

AND, I’ve discovered something. There is a whole genre of fiction called “math fiction”. Sounds almost heretical doesn’t’ it? Like two lovers from different sides of the “tracks” running off together and having a book baby.

I’ve read the novel “The Solitude of Prime Numbers” and liked it. I am now looking at reading “A Certain Ambiguity” by Gaurav Suri and “Uncle Petros and Goldbach’s Conjecture: A Novel of Mathematical Obsession” by Apostolos Doxiadis. Booth look intriguing. I’m particularly interested in “Flatland: A Romance in Many Directions” by Edwin A. Abbott…a mathematical romance! Who knew!

So there is hope. I just have to appreciate the patterns and connections in math that I gravitate towards in literature.

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