New books

I am now reading six books at once, and although I know plenty of people read that many at once and more, I can’t help but feel that my reading is getting a bit out of control.  Six is a lot for me, and I have a couple books I need to get to soon for book groups, so the number may go up.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Emily promised to leave some books on the nightstand for me to look into while I was there, and I ended up bringing two of them home, in spite of the fact that I need no more books whatsoever (and she calls me a pusher!).  One of them is Keith Devlin’s The Math Gene, the first couple chapters of which I’ve now read.  I keep talking about how I want to read more about math and science and yet I haven’t done much of it, so it’s high time I got to a book like this.  So far it has discussed the definition of mathematics and its relationship to arithmetic; the factors that go into possessing mathematical ability, such as number sense, numerical ability, and algorithmic ability; and the extent to which animals and babies have a sense of numbers.  If phrases like “algorithmic ability” sound frightening, I can assure you that Devlin is a very clear writer with a knack for explaining things.  Eventually he’s going to get to an argument about how math is like language, and I’m looking forward to learning about it.

I am also borrowing Virginia Rowans’s 1956 novel The Loving Couple, written under a pseudonym by Patrick Dennis, the same guy who wrote Auntie Mame. It’s a fun novel, set in the New York City area and telling the story of a young couple whose marriage is falling apart.  What’s interesting about it is the way it’s told in two parts; one half of the book is from the woman’s perspective and the other is from the man’s.  The book itself is in two parts, with one cover devoted to her and one to him, one story starting in the usual way and proceeding until the middle of the book, at which point you have to flip the book over and start at the other end.  It’s impossible to tell which side you are supposed to start with — you just have to pick one arbitrarily.  I started with the woman’s perspective and finished it this morning; now the story will start over again from the beginning, but this time from the man’s point of view.  It will be interesting to get his take on things.

I wonder if, when picking up this book, most people begin with their own gender as I did, or if people are just as likely to begin with the opposite gender.  That would be an interesting thing to know, wouldn’t it?

The book is highly entertaining, even if it is dated and not masterfully written.  It’s a good light read, and I always enjoy reading about NYC and its environs — there’s a lot going on here with the tension between the city and the suburbs.

I’ll just have to tell myself there’s no rush to finish all these books; it’s only when I start to want to finish something that reading many things at once begins to feel like a burden.

9 Comments

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9 responses to “New books

  1. Oh well, I guess I AM a bit of a pusher myself. Glad you’re enjoying The Loving Couple and can’t wait to hear more thoughts from you on The Math Gene.

  2. I thought the Math Gene sounded interesting when Emily wrote about it, now here you go an say how good it is too. I might have to look it up at my library. Will it explain to me why I have to count on my fingers while my husband can figure percentages and other things in his head? The Loving Couple sounds like fun. I’ll bet you are right that most people start with their own gender.

  3. I often have several books on the go, but sometimes one book takes over and I just have to read that right through to the end. Other times I’m quite happy to pick them up and read a few chapters of each.

    I haven’t read The Loving Couple, but when my husband and I read Happenstance by Carol Shields, which is in the same format, I started with the woman’s story and he with the husband’s. He had a totally different view of the incidents in the story than I did. We had an interesting discussion afterwards!

  4. I was going to mention ‘Happenstance’ as well, which I quite deliberately started from the man’s point of view because I wanted to leave the woman’s as a counterbalance. I didn’t know there was another novel out there working in the same way. I shall have to look it out.

  5. I like the sound of the Loving Couple (and Happenstance) and I can’t help wondering how I transgendered person would read it! I suppose that’s just being difficult. I like the idea of finishing with your own gender’s account, so that you’re more likely to be sympathetic. I’d like to see a third perspective – that of the couple counsellor!

  6. I read Auntie Mame–what a fun book. I’ve never gotten around to looking for more of his work, but The Loving Couple sounds like fun. Interesting that he chose to write it under a woman’s name! It would be fun to read about NYC and marriage in the 50s. I also think I should read more math and science, but I never pick up any of those sorts of books. You’ll have to post more about The Math Gene and maybe I’ll get inspired. I wonder how Emily chose her stack of books–books you’d like or books you might be challenged by and might not otherwise read. In any case it sounds like a fun way to widen your reading horizons.

  7. That sounds like wonderful variety you have there, Dorothy! I like having several books on the go, but I know just what you mean about wanting to finish something and how frustrating that can be with so many books being read at once. And I love Pete’s idea of having the couple’s councellor as a perspective in these dual-gendered novels! What a book that would be!

  8. Pete, just to let you know that Patrick Dennis (his real name was Tanner) was somewhat trans-gendered himself (no one’s really sure. He may have just been bisexual or homosexual living in a time when that was less acceptable than it is today), and he wrote books under both his male (Patrick Dennis) and his female (Virginia Rowans) pseudonyms, as well as pretending to be an actress (Belle Poitrine) who dictated her life to Dennis in the book Little Me. When I read the book, I had the feeling that was why he pulled it off so successfully — he seemed to be very in touch with both femininity and masculinity and could laugh (or make us laugh) at both, while also being aware that some things are just common human traits, regardless of gender.

    Oh, and Danielle, I chose the books with Dorr in mind (e.g. remembering she keeps saying she wants to read more math and science and that she was recently looking for something a little light, and that I know she has a good sense of humor). I try to create nightstand bookstacks for any guests who are readers (it’s easier to do that for some than for others).

  9. Emily — I’m actually finding The Math Gene hard to put down!

    Stefanie — I just read a section on why we count using our fingers, so yes, it may just answer your question!

    BooksPlease — oh, Happenstance sounds interesting. I do like books with multiple perspectives like these ones, and I bet Shields did a fabulous job with the format.

    Ann — I don’t know, but I bet The Loving Couple is quite different from Happenstance in the way it deals with the format — it’s satirical and comic in nature, and so doesn’t delve in to the psychology of the characters all that much — it’s a lot of fun, just giving an exterior view of things, rather than an interior one.

    Pete — oh, these people could surely use a couple’s counselor! Emily’s information on the sexuality of the author is interesting. If I didn’t know if the author were male or female, I’m not sure I could have made a good guess. The male section makes me think the author is male, but the female section struck me as much more like what a woman might write.

    Danielle — I should say that Emily also put a Persephone book on the stack, a Monica Dickens novel. And also a science book by James Watson and the novel A Complicated Kindness. Quite a nice selection!

    Litlove — wouldn’t that be great? With three perspectives like that, one from a “professional,” there would be room for all kinds of complexity — and humor.

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