Libreria Bookshop & Review Of Once Upon A Prime

Click above to visit an independent bookshop whose platform for selling books online is a welcome distraction. Below, the owner of that shop (a character worth contemplating) writes a great book review. Oddly enough, we could not find, or figure out how to find, this book on his bookshop’s website.

But nevermind that, we have linked to the publisher’s blurb on the book to the left:

Once Upon a Prime review – why maths and literature make a winning formula

Prof Sarah Hart’s exuberant study of the enduring conversation between mathematics and literature is fascinating

The universe (which others call the Library) is composed of an indefinite, perhaps infinite number of hexagonal galleries.” That’s how Jorge Luis Borges starts The Library of Babel, beloved by maths geeks and book nerds alike for the way it toys with the mathematical concept of infinity.

I liked the short story so much I nicked its main idea when I started my Libreria bookshop, blanketing the store’s insides with mirrors to trick you into thinking you are in a “perhaps infinite” space. (The mirrors require a near infinite amount of cleaning, but there we go.)

As for maths professor Sarah Hart, she’s so enthralled by the ways her academic field has enriched the work of poets and novelists that it is the subject of her ebullient debut book. “By seeing mathematics and literature as complementary parts of the same quest to understand human life and our place in the universe, we immeasurably enrich both fields,” she writes.

She’s not wrong. Some of Hart’s examples will be familiar to readers – such as the way numerology shapes the structure of Eleanor Catton’s Booker prize-winning The Luminaries, or how maths puzzles are dotted throughout Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (written by a maths professor, of course).

Most, however, were new on me. I’ve read Moby-Dick, but the references to mathematical curves known as cycloids totally passed me by. Hart does a great job of showing how Melville’s epic work “abounds with ideas that a mathematically attuned eye can detect and explore” (which probably explains why I missed them), and these can “add an extra dimension to our appreciation”.

It’s the same with Middlemarch – I didn’t register that the mocking of Mr Brooke includes a clever little mathematical construct: “We all know the wag’s definition of a philanthropist: a man whose charity increases directly as the square of the distance.”

As Hart rightly points out, “The world of mathematics is a glorious source of metaphors” – and “once you are on the lookout, you’ll see [maths] everywhere”.

Read the whole review here.

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