This I have learned:
That when a young woman says, “I love you,” and demands that you write about your encounter with Neil Gaiman, you set aside the time to write about meeting Neil Gaiman. If I can get a scanner to cooperate with me, this write-up will be an illustrated one.
I’m also trying to get my verbiage organized for another book review, this time of Leonard Mlodinow’s The Drunkard’s Walk (2008). The back cover has an endorsement from David Berlinski — yes, that very one — but don’t let that fool you: it’s actually a good book. (I’m imagining a gruff, cigar-chomping editor with too many books to manage, firing a memo to the PR department: “It’s a book about math. Send it to that other guy who wrote about math.”) The historical interludes, such as the biographical sketches of Cardano and Pascal, transform the mathematics from dry, “textbook” material into the product of human curiosity, and the slice-of-modern-life examples succeed in making the subject feel relevant. Paragraphs with lots of numbers in them might be intimidating at first blow, but such is the way the world works; I’d suggest keeping paper and pencil at hand, working through the arithmetic as you progress through the book. Stuff is stated in words which I’m used to seeing in equations. This is probably a prudent move when writing for an audience which finds algebraic symbols even more imposing than decimal digits and long division, but after a while, I really began to appreciate how concise and powerful algebraic notation is, and I suspect that a deliberate attempt to remove the terrors of it might reap long-term benefit.
Either before or after I get that finished — probably before, from the way my drafts pile looks right now — I’m going to post the first of a few essays stemming from Alan Sokal’s new venture into exposition, Beyond the Hoax (2008). Again, this is a good book with its own intimidating aspects. Like the science-writing anthology I reviewed a while back, Beyond the Hoax serves to emphasize that books are best understood as part of a library, with no one “text” being the last word.
Back into my burrow I go.