Thursday, November 7, 2019

Top ten books of fiction about mathematics

Catherine Chung was born in Evanston, IL, and grew up in New York, New Jersey, and Michigan. Writing has been her life-long passion, but as an undergraduate she indulged in a brief, one-sided affair with mathematics at the University of Chicago followed by a few years in Santa Monica working at a think tank by the sea.

Eventually she attended Cornell University for her MFA, and since then she and her books have been given shelter and encouragement from The MacDowell Colony, Jentel, Hedgebrook, SFAI, Camargo, The University of Leipzig, VCCA, UCross, Yaddo, Civitella Ranieri, The Jerome Foundation, the Ludwig Vogelstein Foundation, and the Constance Saltonstall Foundation. Her brother, Heesoo Chung, has also given her a bed and fed her lots of ice cream at criticaƂ times.

Chung is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and a Director’s Visitorship at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. She was a Granta New Voice, and won an Honorable Mention for the PEN/Hemingway Award with her first novel, Forgotten Country, which was a Booklist, Bookpage, and San Francisco Chronicle Best Book of 2012. She has published work in The New York Times, The Rumpus, and Granta, and is a fiction editor at Guernica Magazine. She lives in New York City.

Chung's latest novel is The Tenth Muse.

At the Guardian, she tagged ten top books of fiction about mathematics, including:
The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Ivan’s love for the sticky leaves in spring, his longing for and subsequent rejection of harmony and forgiveness, since it demands he accept the suffering of children, have stayed with me, along with this passage tying those ideas to maths: “If God indeed created the Earth,” he says, “he created it according to the geometry of Euclid and the human mind … Yet there have been geometricians and philosophers [who] even dare to dream that two parallel lines, which according to Euclid can never meet on Earth, may meet somewhere in infinity.” The year I read this was the same year I learned about hyperbolic space, where – as it turns out – parallel lines can and do meet. I became a maths major: how could I resist?
Read about the other entries on the list.

The Brothers Karamazov made Neil Griffiths's top ten list of novels about God, Becky Ferreira's list of the eight best siblings in literature, Alexandra Silverman's list of four famous writers who spent time in jail, Paul Murray's top ten list of wicked priests in fiction, James Runcie's top ten list of books about brothers, and is one of the top ten works of literature according to Norman Mailer.

--Marshal Zeringue