Will Self’s imitation of Dorian Gray got a bit repetitive for me so I started on a murder mystery Mum lent me that’s written from the perspective of a boy with Asperger’s. It ‘s so satisfying to sometimes read a book where you can race through 40 pages in half an hour. I think perhaps having a degree in literature adds a touch of guilt to the pleasure of voracious reading, you know, if it were Great Literature, you couldn’t read it that fast, and knowing how much Great Literature there is, shouldn’t the lit. grad. spend all her time reading Great Literature? Not to mention Great Electronic Literature. Instead I curl up with an airport paperback, the guilt, along with nostalgia for childhood reading abandon, sweetening the pleasure of the text. There are some unexpected pleasures in a story narrated like this, too. This, for instance, after a detailed (but not too detailed, you know, the narrator may not understand people but the author knows how much a reader can take) explanation of how simple it is to find prime numbers, except that it isn’t, not when the numbers get big.

Prime numbers are what is left when you have taken all the patterns away. I think prime numbers are like life. They are very logical but you could never work out the rules, even if you spent all your time thinking about them.

Imagine if we knew the rules for life, for emotions, for people. Huge computers would spend years working out the immensely complicated details – it could be done, of course, with a powerful enough computer, just as you can work out whether a number with 100 digits is a prime number or not, it would just take time. I wonder whether immensely complicated emotions could be used for codes, as prime numbers are?

4 thoughts on “prime numbers

  1. Matt

    You’ll love it. I’m on chapter 149, the crux, where he discovers the [spoiler] and had drag myself away. Any work with a relativistic lightcone (chapter 193) and Appendices covering mathematical proofs is OK by me. The deep irony of the book is beautiful. He sees things (the primes, patterns, tiny marks on the page), we don’t. We see things (certain feelings, embarrasment, probable infidelities), he doesn’t. But then, that’s everybody, right? This is great book, deserving its (almost extreme at times) exposure in the UK. Everyone should read it. Not that WS is bad, but he’s more of a latenight headscratching sipping whiskey kinda author.

  2. Trond

    The meaning of life, universe, and all the rest has been calculated. It all came down to the number 42… 😉

  3. Nick

    Other people are codes, and we are all code breakers.

  4. drift words

    the curious incidence of the book of the dog-type
    It really shouldn’t surprise me that the same book comes at me from three directions at once …

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