I’m supposed to be writing a lot right now. Papers, grants, documentation, there’s lots to write (blogs don’t count). But I’ve been a little bit blocked, so I’ve been reading instead. Since I spend so much time reading things where the idea is paramount and the prose is barely functional, I thought I’d mix it up and read some things that are well written just because they are well written. Maybe I’ll get inspiration from authors who put words together well.
On that note, I just finished up Slumberland, the latest novel by Paul Beatty. I like the idea that great writing is happening currently, and not just something in the “classics” section of the library.
Beatty writes epics about Black superheros, so there was no reason for me to expect math to make an appearance in his latest story. Its about an American deejay who moves to pre-unification Berlin with the perfect beat. That makes the math content here the exact opposite of what I complained about after I saw Salt last summer, where screenwriters made Angelina Jolie math-phobic for no reason.
It was quite a pleasant surprise when early on in the book, following some laugh-out-loud funny dialogue that I won’t even hint at here, the surprising results of a math test come out:
The scores were posted outside the classroom in descending order. It was the first computer printout I’d ever seen. There was something affirming about seeing my name and score—FERGUSON W. SOWELL: 100/100—at the top of the list in what was then a futuristic telex font. I felt official. I was real.
Thank you, Paul Beatty, for making your superhero a math whiz on the side.