What's in a blog? "What's in a name? That which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet." - Romeo and Juliet Late last night I got into a… - Mike Elgan - Google+
When a wealthy California industrialist tells apparent beach bum I. M. Fletcher that he wants to be murdered, the undercover journalist investigates the businessman's private life. Winner of the Edgar Award.
Kindle e-book, 208pp
Fletch #1 (in the stories' chronological order: #4)
The book that started it all!
I’d originally read this sometime around 1988 after seeing the Warner Bros. feature film of the same name. It’s not quite as over-the-top as the comedy of the film and the humor is a little sharper and wrier.
For the most part, the plotline of the text is nearly identical to that of the film with a few exceptions mostly relating to names of characters and casting (warning: spoilers follow):
- The Collins family has been renamed Boyd, likely so as not to run afoul of the name of author Joan Collins.
- Fletch’s editors Clara and Frank are concatenated into the character of just Frank.
- Fletch’s beach girlfriend Bobbi doesn’t exist in the film, likely to focus more on Joan.
- Montgomery is a younger high-school aged student with more social ties than the Gummy of the film.
- Stanwyk is not involved in the drug trade and his death at the hands of the Chief of Police is motivated by a different bit of plot. He also has an additional local paramour. His character and motivations are much better delineated in the book and several characters backing this up were missing from the film.
- Much of the shennanigans of the film was added there and didn’t exist in the book, though almost all of the motivating comedy and sense of humor is surely there.
- Large chunks of dialogue from the film are drawn almost directly from the book.
- The film is obviously a bit more cinematic and kinetic with Fletch doing much more movement, travel, and even chase scenes to make things in the film move along, while the book is a bit more balanced and even realistic.
Certainly there are many other differences, but this covers the broadest spectrum.
In this motivating text for the remainder of the series, Fletch is drawn as a very clear-cut and incredibly interesting character with a fantastic sense of morality and humor. Of the parts of the series I’ve read thus far, this is definitely one of my favorites, second only perhaps to Confess, Fletch.
Here the cat-and-mouse-game between Fletch and Joan is better delineated and the relationship between Fletch and Stanwyk’s father is quirkier and more interesting.
If you enjoyed the movie (and even if you didn’t), you’re sure to appreciate this as fiction, particularly with Mcdonald’s ability to paint a picture with words and write story through character.
A brief note on the physical text
This is assuredly an optical character recognition scanned version of the original text. There are a dozen or so obvious typos that didn’t get fixed. There are more than several places where a temporal change in the plot occurs, but the additional line returns that were originally included to indicate the break are now missing. This can make reading portion a bit annoying. The quality control of the typesetting of the e-book text could certainly have been much better.
- 08/7/16 marked as: want to read; “The Rio Olympics reminded me that I’d gotten Carioca Fletch to read back in the 80’s and never got around to it, so I thought I’d come back and revisit the series.”
- 09/16/16 marked as: currently reading
- 09/19/16 27.0% “So far this is maybe even better than I remember it.”
- 09/20/16 68.0% “This just keeps getting better. I’m enjoying some of the subtle differences between the film and the book. No surprise that the movie renamed Joan Collins to Boyd. I know I’d read this 20+ years ago and I remember it being darker than the film, but the tone seems lighter to me now somehow.”
- 09/22/16 100.0% “A slightly different ending than one in the film, but still nicely tied together… Possibly my second favorite in the series so far.”
Highlights, Quotes, & Marginalia
“What’s your name?”
“What’s your full name?”
“What’s your first name?”
“Irwin. Irwin Fletcher. People call me Fletch.”
“Irwin Fletcher, I have a proposition to make to you. I will give you a thousand dollars for just listening to it. If you decide to reject the proposition, you take the thousand dollars, go away, and never tell anyone we talked. Fair enough?”
“Is it criminal? I mean, what you want me to do?”
“Fair enough. For a thousand bucks I can listen. What do you want me to do?”
“I want you to murder me.”
—Page 1 · Location 37 This is the first exchange of the book and a really great opening
The license plate of the car was 440-001.
—Page 3 · Location 68
The paintings in the room were not particularly good, in Fletch’s opinion, but they were real.
—Page 4 · Location 92
“I’m a fairly reliable-looking drifter.”
—Page 5 · Location 106
“Bye, Clara. Nice talking with you. Don’t get any crumbs in Frank’s bed.”
—Page 9 · Location 180
“Wise ass. What if some ladies were around?”
“There are no ladies in California.”
—Page 10 · Location 193
“Dishonest of me, I know. “But as Pappy used to say about violating virgins, ‘Son, if you’re not the first, someone else will be.’ ”
—Page 12 · Location 231
“My extension is 705. Many thanks.”
“No. I.M. Fletcher.”
—Page 13 · Location 264 Like the man says: ‘I’m’ Fletcher, not Christ.
“Vicious and violent. Bullshit. One night I stepped on the cat’s tail.”
“You pitched the cat through the window of your seventh-floor apartment.”
“The whole place smelled of cat.”
—Page 15 · Location 297
“There you are, Mr. Gillett. Thanks for stopping by. I’m sorry we’re not on the seventh floor.”
—Page 16 · Location 313 Fletch had just mentioned throwing a cat out of the window of a 7th floor apartment.
Before leaving, Gillett tried to look haughty, but only succeeded in looking as if he were in the early stages of a sneeze.
—Page 17 · Location 324
Marvin and Helen Stanwyk, Nonheagan, Pennsylvania.
—Page 24 · Location 458
You just fired someone.”
“As a matter of fact, I just did.”
“A kid in the city room. He had been calling people up and asking them stupid questions, saying he was someone from the Associated Press.”
“Really? How awful! I always tell people I’m from the Chronicle-Gazette, myself.”
—Page 26 · Location 487
“Fletcher, we have to talk.”
“Are you up to it?”
“That’s why I thought we should have lunch. In the cafeteria. Put your shoes on.”
“You’re not taking me out?”
“I wouldn’t be seen in public with you. Even a drugstore lunch counter wouldn’t let us in, the way you dress.”
—Page 27 · Location 495
“See you upstairs. Put your shoes on.”
—Page 27 · Location 503
Clara Snow had ordered an uncut bacon-lettuce-tomato sandwich on toast. When she bit into it the two edges of toast nearer Fletch gaped as if about to bite him.
—Page 27 · Location 504
“I don’t resent women. I rather like women.”
“You haven’t had much luck with them.”
“My only mistake is that I keep marrying them.”
—Page 28 · Location 512
He chewed his calves’ liver open-mouthed.
“Such principle,” she said, sucking Coke from a straw.
“You can’t tell me you haven’t made every strung-out little girl on the beach.”
“That’s different. That’s for a story. I will do anything for a story. That’s why I put penicillin on my expense account.”
—Page 28 · Location 519
“If there is no one to complain for a kid, the law don’t give a shit.”
—Page 30 · Location 548
“A dowdy old thing. She always reminds me of an Eskimo full of baked beans. I mean, she looks as if, if she ever got unfrozen, she would evaporate in one enormous fart.”
—Page 41 · Location 748
Your style is exactly what Beau Brummel did in his time. All Brummel did, you know, was to bring the lean, simple country style into the city.”
—Page 41 · Location 754
—Page 41 · Location 763 An interesting use of the word from the 70’s. I don’t think I’ve seen it again until the early 2000s otherwise, and then in reference to tattoos.
His apartment was on the seventh floor of a building that had everything but design. His apartment— a living room, a bedroom, bath and kitchenette— was impeccably neat. On the wall over the divan was a blow-up of a multiple cartes-de-visite by Andre Adolphe Eugene Disderi.
—Page 53 · Location 973
In an ell of the room,
—Page 57 · Location 1035
“I used to be a pretty good house burglar myself,” Creasey said. “I even had equipment.”
“I got ripped off. Some bastard stole my burglary equipment. The bastard.”
“A fuckin’ riot.”
“You should have had business insurance.”
—Page 63 · Location 1153
Utrelamensky. John Utrelamensky.”
—Page 69 · Location 1268 One of Fletch’s pseudonyms
—Page 87 · Location 1585 What a fun word, and somehow so culturally 1970s
“John Zalumarinero,” Fletch said.
—Page 87 · Location 1587 One of Fletch’s pseudonyms
He knows less about cows than I do, and all I know is that a cow is square with legs sticking out at the corners.
—Page 92 · Location 1687
“Sorry I didn’t get to meet their daughter, Julie.”
“Jesus, I wish she had a sister so I could beat one of them to death with the other one. Have another drink?”
—Page 93 · Location 1693
Some of these people had been hanging fire two or three days.
—Page 99 · Location 1808 What a great phrase for people with no drugs.
Sitting on the divan under the Disderi, he ate two delicatessen sandwiches and drank a bottle of milk. On the coffee table in front of him was the big tape recorder. On the wall across from him was a copy of William James’s Cherry Beach. After he had finished his sandwiches and milk, he went into the bedroom and lay on the bed. Facing him was a copy of Fredric Weiss’s 1968 photograph of a boy apparently walking in midair beneath two roofs, Boy Jumping.
—Page 101 · Location 1832
“Jim Swarthout speaking.”
“Hi, Jim. This is Bill Carmichael.”
—Page 101 · Location 1840 Another of Fletch’s psuedonyms
“I’ve got a lot of painin’ to do. To make up for what I did.”
—Page 112 · Location 2030 Painin’ is such a great word here. (Presuming it’s not a typo from OCR…)
Fletch wanted to open the window, but the window jack handles had been removed. The police were probably afraid someone would try to commit suicide by bopping himself on the nose with one.
—Page 115 · Location 2085
But again, she was educated and experienced without the flash that makes champions. And she was without the playful joy of the beginner.
—Page 142 · Location 2570 This description was used to describe both Joan’s tennis ability and then a few pages later her ability in bed.
“God, what a moniker. Zamanawink— say it again?”
“— eraleski. Zamanawinkeraleski.”
“You mean someone actually married you with a name like that?”
“Yup. And now there are three little Zamanawinkeraleskis.”
“What was her maiden name? I mean, your wife’s?”
“That’s a nice name. Why would she give up a nice name like that to become a Zamabangi or whatever it is?”
“Zamanawinkeraleski. It’s more distinguished than Fletcher.”
“It’s so distinguished no one can say it. What is it, Polish?”
“I didn’t know there was a difference.”
“Only Poles and Rumanians care about the difference.”
“What is the difference?”
“Between Poles and Rumanians? They make love differently.”
“Twice I’ve made love Polish style. Now I’ll show you how a Rumanian would do it.”
“Polish style was all right.”
“But you haven’t seen the Rumanian style yet.”
“Why didn’t you make love Rumanian style in the first place?”
“I didn’t think you were ready for it.”
“I’m ready for it.”
It was eight-thirty.
In forty-eight hours Fletch was scheduled to murder her husband.
—Page 144 · Location 2605 Another of Fletch’s pseudonyms sparking an interesting passage.
—Page 147 · Location 2644 Fat Sam’s original name.
“Oh, I forgot: you’re a pulse-taker. When I was home for lunch, Mrs. Stanwyk was still ticking over nicely. The older models are the best, you know. Better built, and they use less fuel.”
—Page 162 · Location 2916
If I remember rightly, girls have a couple of legs under them, a hank o’ hair up top, and a couple of protuberances about grab height. That about right?”
—Page 162 · Location 2921 Marvyn Stanwyk’s definition of girls.
“What I mean is, did you mean girls, or girl?”
“I’m in the hardware business, son. I’m apt to speak in gross lots.”
—Page 162 · Location 2923
She insisted it happened only once, but as Mother Goose said, once is enough.
—Page 164 · Location 2953
R. Sanders Fletcher
—Page 168 · Location 3030 The pseudonym Fletch uses at the Newspaper
All I ever won in the marines was a disease coffee doesn’t cure.”
“Do you still have it?”
“No. I lost it on a toilet seat.”
“At City Hall, I hope.”
“Probably. I thought you picked up the Bronze Star years ago.”
—Page 176 · Location 3164
Prowling the room, watching her, Fletch had the sudden, irrational desire to marry Joan Collins Stanwyk.
—Page 180 · Location 3232
“How very interesting. You go to that much effort for one paragraph?”
“You should see the efforts I go to sometimes for paragraphs I don’t even wite.”
—Page 181 · Location 3246
“The thing that tipped me off was something your wife said the other night when we were in bed together.”
—Page 187 · Location 3358 A great quote that made it directly into the film.
“Helluva story this morning, Mr. Fletcher.”
“Thanks for reading the News-Tribune.
—Page 192 · Location 3434
—Page 192 · Location 3444 A nice bit of newspaper terminology
—Page 32 · Location 601 Should be ‘I’ instead of ‘You’.
—Page 68 · Location 1244 There should be a text break above this.
“The Nonheagan Inn. Good afternoon.”
—Page 85 · Location 1566 Text break before this.
“Swarthout Nevada Realty Company.”
—Page 86 · Location 1575 Should have text break before this.
—Page 111 · Location 2009 Should be a text break before this.
—Page 141 · Location 2540 Typo: should be “Your”.
—Page 151 · Location 2728 “it” instead of I (typo)
At six o’clock
—Page 183 · Location 3289 text break before this
—Page 192 · Location 3444 typo: should be “l”
“Anytime you’re ready, Mr. Fletcher.”
—Page 195 · Location 3494 text break before
Mcdonald does an excellent job of introducing the reader to a particular flavor of Brazilian culture which presages the pace of the plot. As a reader I felt nearly as frustrated with the pace of life and the style of culture (which heavily parallels the plot) as Fletch must have in his own evolving situation. This treatment makes me identify with I.M. much more closely than I might have otherwise, so kudos to Mcdonald for that.
As it turns out the woman Fletch initially dodges because he says she’ll think he killed her husband is Joan Stanwyk. She’s had him tracked down so that she can confront him about her husband’s death as well as a large amount of money that has gone missing. Seemingly only minutes later, Joan disappears just before Carnival and there isn’t much Fletch can do to find her. I had hoped for more mystery on this front, but the solution is wrapped up in a few scant pages right at the end.
There’s some great description and depiction of the Brazilian culture and the piece feels like a reasonable travelogue in some sense. Sadly it means it’s a bit thin on plot. Things start off with a nice bang, but then plod along for most of the book before things begin to pick up again in the last quarter of the book. There was so much more that Mcdonald could have done with the plot. Joan Stanwyk tracking down Fletch for a confrontation, Fletch and the Tap Dancers disposing of a friend’s body in a scene that presaged the entire plot of the film Weekend at Bernie’s (1989), the detective portion relating to who killed Junio all those years ago… Instead Mcdonald seemingly lets all the plot points work themselves out without any real work from our protagonist who just floats along through the culture. However, I will give him huge points from an artistic standpoint as he’s done a great job instilling a particular pace and cultural way of life into the text in such a manner that it really seems natural and satisfying that things work out the way they do.
Yet, in the end ultimately I’m conflicted as I’d have preferred more Fletchness, but I find it to have been enjoyable–at least it was better than Fletch, Too which still sits poorly with me.
I am left a bit adrift at the end with respect to the Tap Dancers who were so pivotal to most of the plot. What happened to the promised trip back to the brothel? Somehow they just seem to drift out of the plot.
Why wasn’t there better development of a romantic interest?
I don’t recall if this or something else set things in motion from a cultural standpoint, but as I recall the mid-80s, this would have ridden at the forefront of the zeitgeist of Brazillian culture in North America with several other books, television shows, and even movies which featured Brazil and even capoeira at the time.
- 8/7/16 marked as: want to read; “The Rio Olympics reminded me that I’d gotten Carioca Fletch to read back in the 80’s and never got around to it, so I thought I’d come back and revisit the series.”
- 09/05/16 marked as: currently reading
- 09/05/16 14.0% “An interesting start with a nice dash of the cultural part of what it means to be a Brazilian to set the stage of what is to come in the book. The reader is nicely made to feel the cultural clash of American and Brazilian along with the frustration Fletch surely feels.”
- 09/09/16 34.0%
- 09/10/16 61.0% “The plot seems to have slowed down significantly since the opening, but is just finally getting moving again.”
- 9/13/16 71%
- 09/16/16 100%
Highlights, Quotes, & Marginalia
“You have not heard of queima de arquivo?”
“It means ‘burn the record'” Marilia said.
“It means ‘cover up,'” Laura said. “It is the Brazilian way of life. That is why we are so free.”
—Loc 65 & 68: One of the motivating concepts within the book and an interesting life philosophy. There are dozens of appearances of the word burn throughout the book.
“Half your diet should be carbohydrates.”
“You’re reading about diets?”
—Loc 266: I find it interesting that this discussion predates some serious anti-carb literature that appears in the culture about a decade or more hence.
“Anyone can make up a story and say it is the past.”
“Have you ever been paralysed?”
Toninho’s big brow eyes swelled. “I have the wisdom to know that one day I will be.”
—Loc 462: An interesting life philosophy
“É preciso terno?”
Such was a tourist joke. In Brazil a suit was never necessary.
Fletch gathered in the stern line. “Not in the S.S. Coitus Interruptus.”
Colombo, a sparkling clean tearoom noted for its great pastry
—Loc 1958: Who can resist a pastry reference?
The sound is overpowering. It is perhaps the maximum sound the earth and sky can accept without cracking, without breaking into fragments to move with it before dissipating into dust.
—Loc 2287: Mcdonald does a really good job describing the music of Brazil throughout. I particularly liked this passage.
…cheering on the biggest and most amazing human spectacle in the world except war.
—Loc 2426: a nice description of Carnival; apparently one so apt that he uses it multiple times.
Then he remembered his other ear had slipped into the personality of a tomato.
—Loc 2560: great description of an ear after a brutal fight
“Fletch, you always seem to be someplace you’re not supposed to be, doing something you’re not supposed to be doing.”
“Got any other news for me?”
—Loc 2684: Quintessential Fletch description and rejoinder
Fletch had come back to life. He was in a closed coffin.
—Loc 2939: A great pair of sentences just by themselves, but they also have a nice parallelism to where Fletch is within relation to the plot at the time.
(a waitress to Fletch) “Have an accident?”
“No, thanks. Just had one.”
—Loc 2979: Witty dialogue
“I was worried about you. I’ve been stood up for dinner before, often, but seldom for breakfast.”
“Not very nice of me.”
“It’s okay. I had breakfast anyway.”
—Loc 2986: Witty dialogue
“I mean, everyone needs a vacation from life. Don’t you agree?”
“A vacation from reality.”
“She fell out of her cradle. She’s enjoying a few moments crawling around the floor.”
—Loc 3097: great description of a grown woman
“I learned some things.”
“I’d love to know what.”
“Oh, that the past asserts itself. That the dead can walk.” Fletch thought of the small carved stone frog that had been under his bed. “That the absence of symbols can mean as much as their presence.”
Edgar Arthur Tharp, Junior
—Loc 3106: Fletch indicates that this artist will be part of his future purpose; The name reappears in Confess, Fletch as a tangential part of the plot.
- the sails luffed
- calunga doll
- bateria of drums
The Order I’ve read the series in so far
Fletch Won #1
Fletch and the Widow Bradley #3
Fletch, Too #2
Confess Fletch #6
Carioca Fletch #5
At the opening of this he’s going by the name of Peter Fletcher which was quirky, even knowing how much I.M. dislikes his given names, and he seemed to have a far more Italian flair and a rich man’s flâneur attitude toward life compared with his previous character. Gone was the ne’er-do-well under employed hero and in his place was a well-to-do more suave man. What was I missing/forgetting from the intervening books? It wasn’t until about halfway through the book that the Fletch character I’ve come to enjoy popped out of the woodwork as himself.
In stark contrast to the almost no plot line of Fletch, Too, which I found disappointing, this one starts off like a shot. The opening scene of the story starts out with Fletch in an apartment swap and calling the police to report a body of a dead woman in the flat which he’s staying for the next few weeks.
“This is the Police Business phone.”
“Isn’t murder police business?”
“You’re supposed to call Emergency with a murder.”
“I think the emergency is over.”
“I mean, I don’t even have a tape recorder on this phone.”
“So talk to your boss. Make a recommendation.”
The following morning he’s on the hunt for the missing art collection of an Italian nobleman who’s been kidnapped and presumed dead.
What follows is a nicely developed set of A and B plot lines that rival even those of the original Fletch. (N.B. I’ve still yet to reread the original, so it’s been over 25 years that I’m making this comparison.) The characters are great and the dialogue as witty and snarky as ever. This is Fletch as it was meant to be. Reading this after Fletch, Too brings my faith back for Mcdonald’s work.
I just hope the rest are just this good.
The added benefit is that apparently Mcdonald spun off the Frances Xavier Flynn character from this work into another series, and he’s a sufficiently complex and interesting enough character that I’m glad the Fletch odyssey isn’t really over once I’m done with these eleven.
From a time period perspective, I’ll again note, as I did for Fletch and the Widow Bradley, that this book (written in 1976) had some very progressive views about gay/homosexual lifestyle that I wouldn’t have expected.
I really can’t believe I had the patience to make it through to the end. There was a minor twist at the bitter end which was poorly foreshadowed and a bit too predictable. There was no real mystery at all and definitely no “detective” work or journalistic probing which usually moves the plot in Fletch books along. I would almost suspect that the long-time editor of the series died and no one else could reign the writer in to produce something more compelling.
I kept wondering where the plot was going and why I should keep carrying. So far, of the 4 I’ve read in the series, this was, by far, the least gripping book in the series. The dialogue was poorly attributed, if at all, which made reading and understanding things even more of a chore. It also wasn’t as sharp or witty as usual and characters are “off” and unsympathetic. The plot was just generally flat and didn’t pay off despite what could have been an interesting twist with Fletch witnessing a murder well before I would have anticipated as the end of the first act.
I’m hoping that though it was the second in the chronological story timeline of the Fletch canon, the fact that it was one of the last written means that Mcdonald was just getting tired of the formula and trying to close out the series in some stilted way. I still have higher hopes for the others remaining on my list.
In an odd way, the title was interesting from both a character standpoint as well as it being a follow up to Fletch Won.
- 8/7/16 marked as: want to read; “The Rio Olympics reminded me that I’d gotten Carioca Fletch to read back in the 80’s and never got around to it, so I thought I’d come back and revisit the series.”
- 8/14/16: marked as currently reading
- 8/14/16: 10%
- 8/18/16: 30% “Took a bit to get into the first few chapters, but eventually gets moving along. The plot opens up just days after we left Fletch in Fletch Won.”
- 8/29/16: 64% “I keep wondering where this is going and why I should keep caring. So far this isn’t the most gripping book in the series. Dialogue isn’t as sharp as usual and characters are off. The plot is just generally flat.”
- 9/2/16: 100%
Fletch’s romantic interest Moxie was quirky, but didn’t do very much for the plot. His quest within the story was fairly straightforward, but wasn’t very well motivated from an internal perspective given his lackadaisical viewpoint in life and his general inability to afford his situation.
The finding of the $25,000 was an interesting opening, but sadly and quickly took a back seat in the plot. Given subsequent events, it could have played a better tangential role as a more integral B-plot. The final wrap up in the closing scenes was very unsatisfying for our viewpoint of Fletch as a hero and could have had a better twist. I’m getting the feeling that Mcdonald is still coming into his own at this point in his career and that the success of the 1984 film version of Fletch had a more significant influence on subsequent character development.
Most surprising was that the major plot twist occurred in a book in 1981, making it far more prescient of American culture to come in the new millennium. Barring the differences in the current state of journalism, this plot would still easily fit into the zeitgeist today from a cultural standpoint.
Given that the series is set in Los Angeles, I was curious to see if Tom Bradley, the dead character that motivates the plot, bore any resemblance to long time Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley. The real Bradley had been mayor for nearly 8 years (of an eventual 20 year reign) at the time the book was written, but I couldn’t discern any direct political satire in the naming of the character, though my knowledge of early 80’s Los Angeles politics is sketchy at best.
The Rio Olympics reminded me that I’d gotten Carioca Fletch to read back in the late 80’s and never got around to it, so I thought I’d come back and revisit the series. This certainly didn’t disappoint, so I’ll be delving back through the rest to fill in some entertainment in the late end of the summer. Since I couldn’t get my hands on the second in the series from a publishing chronology, I thought I’d read them in the series timeline order instead. (Or as closely as I can from the perspective of obtaining them in this order.)
I read an e-book version of the text which was fair obviously an OCR’ed version of an earlier paperback version. There were a handful of egregious spelling errors and typos that should have been fixed, but fortunately the quality wasn’t too horrific. Hopefully the quality of OCR is maintained or improved throughout the remainder of the series.
One of the most famous stories about the development of literary and critical theory in the United States has its origin at Johns Hopkins University’s Homewood campus about half a century ago.
It was at “The Languages of Criticism and the Sciences of Man” symposium held at the Milton S. Eisenhower Library in October 1966 that a then relatively unknown French thinker named Jacques Derrida threw a wrench into a few of the central ideas supporting structuralism, a linguistic methodology for understanding and conceptualizing human culture dominant at the time and epitomized by luminaries such as Claude Lévi-Strauss, Louis Althusser, Jacques Lacan, and Roland Barthes. What’s often forgotten about that event is that it was in fact the inaugural conference organized by Johns Hopkins University’s Humanities Center, an academic department that celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.
A reader analytics company in London wants to use data on our reading habits to transform how publishers acquire, edit and market books.
A review of Summa Technologiae by Stanislaw Lem by David Auerbach from the Los Angeles Review of Books.
AT LAST WE have it in English. Summa Technologiae, originally published in Polish in 1964, is the cornerstone of Stanislaw Lem’s oeuvre, his consummate work of speculative nonfiction. Trained in medicine and biology, Lem synthesizes the current science of the day in ways far ahead of most science fiction of the time.
His subjects, among others, include:
- Virtual reality
- Artificial intelligence
- Nanotechnology and biotechnology
- Evolutionary biology and evolutionary psychology
- Artificial life
- Information theory
- Entropy and thermodynamics
- Complexity theory, probability, and chaos
- Population and ecological catastrophe
- The “singularity” and “transhumanism”
I came across this book review quite serendipitously today via an Auerbach article in Slate, which I’ve bookmarked. I found a copy of the book and have added it to the top of my reading pile. As I’m currently reading an advance reader edition of Sean Carroll’s The Big Picture, I can only imagine how well the two may go together despite being written nearly 60 years apart.
A Japanese mathematician claims to have solved one of the most important problems in his field. The trouble is, hardly anyone can work out whether he's right.
The biggest mystery in mathematics
This article in Nature is just wonderful. Everyone will find it interesting, but those in the Algebraic Number Theory class this fall will be particularly interested in the topic – by the way, it’s not too late to join the class. After spending some time over the summer looking at Category Theory, I’m tempted to tackle Mochizuki’s proof as I’m intrigued at new methods in mathematical thinking (and explaining.)
The abc conjecture refers to numerical expressions of the type a + b = c. The statement, which comes in several slightly different versions, concerns the prime numbers that divide each of the quantities a, b and c. Every whole number, or integer, can be expressed in an essentially unique way as a product of prime numbers — those that cannot be further factored out into smaller whole numbers: for example, 15 = 3 × 5 or 84 = 2 × 2 × 3 × 7. In principle, the prime factors of a and b have no connection to those of their sum, c. But the abc conjecture links them together. It presumes, roughly, that if a lot of small primes divide a and b then only a few, large ones divide c.
Thanks to Rama for bringing this to my attention!
Typical teenage protagonist Kayleigh comes home one day to find her father bleeding and injured in an apparent home invasion that ultimate reveals her mother has been either kidnapped or killed. Struggling with the psychological fallout of losing her mother under more than suspicious circumstances, she faces the turmoils of puberty, relationships, and fitting in as a teenager in high school. Making things worse, she discovers, that like her mother, she’s a “Morph” with the ability to change her appearance into almost anyone she can imagine to even animals. Facing post traumatic stress disorder amidst teenagerdom, her new-found ability just compounds things and gives her some hope that her mother may not only be alive but that she may be able to find her — if she can withstand constant bullying from classmate Emma and a very mysterious and potentially threatening online stalker who seems to know her every move.
I can’t wait to see the next installment in November 2015.
Imagine you had to take an art class in which you were taught how to paint a fence or a wall, but you were never shown the paintings of the great masters, and you weren't even told that such paintings existed. Pretty soon you'd be asking, why study art? That's absurd, of course, but it's surprisingly close to the way we teach children mathematics. In elementary and middle school and even into high school, we hide math's great masterpieces from students' view. The arithmetic, algebraic equations and geometric proofs we do teach are important, but they are to mathematics what whitewashing a fence is to Picasso — so reductive it's almost a lie. Most of us never get to see the real mathematics because our current math curriculum is more than 1,000 years old. For example, the formula for solutions of quadratic equations was in al-Khwarizmi's book published in 830, and Euclid laid the foundations of Euclidean geometry around 300 BC. If the same time warp were true in physics or biology, we wouldn't know about the solar system, the atom and DNA. This creates an extraordinary educational gap for our kids, schools and society.
Learning any language involves acquiring a large amount of vocabulary. For this reason, I think it is very useful for Latin and Greek students to put time and effort into systematic vocabulary study.