Everything and More
It’s a rare book indeed that gets positive reviews from both Wired and Poets & Writers. David Foster Wallace’s new book, Everything and More: A Compact History of Infinity, is due out this month:
Is infinity a valid mathematical property or a meaningless abstraction? The nineteenth-century mathematical genius Georg Cantor’s answer to this question not only surprised him but also shook the very foundations upon which math had been built. Cantor’s counterintuitive discovery of a progression of larger and larger infinities created controversy in his time and may have hastened his mental breakdown, but it also helped lead to the development of set theory, analytic philosophy, and even computer technology.
I’m looking forward to hearing D.F.W.’s take on this subject, because his essays are always great. The essays in A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again are funny, intelligent, and consistenly thought-provoking. I also enjoyed his account of his road trip on the Straight Talk Express during McCain’s 2000 presidential campaign (Up Simba!, available only as an eBook) and his essay on “the seamy underbelly of U.S. lexicography” for Harper’s Magazine.
Both of his novels (The Broom of the System and the monumental Infinite Jest) are also amazing, and I can’t wait for another one, though I find that his short stories (many collected in Girl with Curious Hair and Brief Interviews with Hideous Men) tend to be pretty hit or miss (mostly miss, unfortunately).
On a lighter note (often, I find, a lighter note is needed when reading D.F.W.), The Onion‘s parody, “Girlfriend Stops Reading David Foster Wallace Breakup Letter At Page 20,” is quite funny.