The Dot & the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics

Norton JusterThe Dot & the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics by Norton Juster is absolutely delightful, featuring a love triangle between a “sensible straight line who was hopelessly in love with a dot”, who was of course hanging out with “a wild and unkempt squiggle”.  Accompany your reading with the short animated film on YouTube (and apparently also as a special feature in The Glass Bottom Boat DVD, of which we own 3 copies, so feel free to check that out).

The overall structure of the plot arc is quite predictable, but that’s not where the charm of this wonderful romance lies. Part of it, I’m sure, is just in the fact that it was written in the 60s, so some of the phrasing is a touch quaint reading it now, but I want to say that the charm of it is simply in the fact that this is a mathematical romance. It’s dedicated to Euclid! There are math puns & references everywhere (though some of them smarter than others), and the entire novel(la) is overall a delightful romp. And as some of you know, despite math not being anywhere near my forte, I have a love of it all the same. You don’t really learn anything about shapes or math in any way apart from how to creatively apply lines and shapes, but that’s why it’s a romance in lower mathematics, right?*

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TED Books

Guy WinchI’ve been making my way through some of the TED series books on my breaks (they’re a good size for a 15-minute slot – not that you can finish it in 15 minutes, but each chapter is short enough), and they’re quite a nice little series based on the corresponding talks. I haven’t chanced upon one that’s been life-changing yet, but they’re definitely charming little bites of information. I’ll have a list of all the current TED books, linked to the titles we have in our catalogue, below the cut.

The one I started with was How to Fix a Broken Heart, which surprised me by addressing the overarching problem in dealing with a broken heart (when it falls outside of socially sanctioned heartbreak, i.e. when your significant other breaks up with you (outside of divorce or death), or when a pet dies): the structures simply aren’t in place to provide as much support for those who are undergoing heartbreak of this sort in comparison to the bereavement leave and understanding you get from coworkers & friends alike for more socially acceptable forms of heartbreak (e.g. death of immediate family or spouse, divorce). As a result, the brokenhearted are expected to pull themselves up by their bootstraps and get over it – without a support system, oftentimes facing exasperation or contempt from what would otherwise be their support system because why can’t they just get over it already??, while they’re already on low emotional resources.

Winch doesn’t just address the systemic issue. He provides solutions the heartbroken individual can use to heal better, following up with references to studies that support those solutions – because while time is a factor, what you do during that time also makes a difference. At the end of the book, you’ll feel a lot less guilty about how much it affects your functioning when your heart gets broken, especially because now you’ll know that people who are undergoing heartbreak have the same part of their brain activated in like fashion to people who are undergoing intense, almost unbearable, physical pain. So why do we expect people who are feeling intense, almost unbearable physical pain to function just as well as they do normally, just because we can’t see their pain or don’t file the circumstances under a socially acceptable folder for grieving?

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Romance Fiction, or Diversity in the Publishing Industry

Helen HoangI’ve been waffling a bit about whether to write about this or not, because I guess it’s not exactly a leisurely topic, except… I actually do read about the lack of diversity in the publishing industry in my leisure time, and I’m wagering I’m not the only one, so yes, I do believe this is for your leisure!

(I’ll try my best to avoid throwing words like “hegemony” and “heteronormativity” around, in the interests of keeping this leisurely.)

Here’s a brief excerpt from a romance novel:

Michael was mint chocolate chip for her. She could try other flavors, but he’d always be her favorite.

(Helen Hoang, The Kiss Quotient)

Quick: what race/ethnicity is Michael? How about her?

Did you assume they were both white?* So Michael is Vietnamese and Swedish, and the female character is unspecified (I think – I’m going off a comment on Goodreads) with Asperger’s. And when it’s unspecified, we generally default to thinking of white (cis/able-bodied/straight) as the norm – the female character’s Asperger’s is defined in the novel. So let’s talk about whiteness in the romance fiction industry, below the cut.

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