More to a book than its cover

Today I have found myself reading about three authors. These three men had various levels of fame and in each case, the interest today was more about them than it was about their work.

Samuel Clements aka Mark Twain, the great American writer was coming to my attention because his century long delay in publishing his memoirs is coming to an end. I must confess that I’ve never been the biggest fan of Twain’s works, though many I have enjoyed. His life is very interesting however, filled as it was at times with great pathos and controversy as well as success. There are many theories as to why his memoirs have been so delayed, but one of the front runners is that some of his comments about (at least orthodox, in the broad sense) religion attracted attention. I’m sure it will be broader than that. Nevertheless, one of his quotes is already in the random section in my blog.

Also it has another name – The Word of God. For the Christian thinks every word of it was dictated by God. It is full of interest. It has noble poetry in it; and some clever fables; and some blood-drenched history; and some good morals; and a wealth of obscenity; and upwards of a thousand lies. But you notice that when the Lord God of Heaven and Earth, adored Father of Man, goes to war, there is no limit. He is totally without mercy – he, who is called the Fountain of Mercy. He slays, slays, slays! All the men, all the beasts, all the boys, all the babies; also all the women and all the girls, except those that have not been deflowered. He makes no distinction between innocent and guilty. What the insane Father required was blood and misery; he was indifferent as to who furnished it.

I have great sympathy for this quote, and it puzzles me when I meet people who cannot remotely consider the possibility that, even if there is a perfect God, perfect in His grace, that it might be the case that the humans who wrote the bible might not have listened so well. Because the only other possibility is that such acts are, in fact, OK to be committed by people when protected by divine wrath.

You may recognise this quote, it is possible that it is illegal to publish it in the Republic or Ireland which is another story altogether. Anyway, it will be interesting to see what else Mark Twain will offer the world in his memoirs.

Martin Gardner is my second author under discussion. I read of his death today, albeit at a ripe old age. His collection of mathematical puzzle books adorned my shelves (they currently languish in a box for now) for many years and with collections of his own puzzles and those of many others, they gave me insight into the nature of mathematics. I still use some of the puzzles I read about in my classes.

I was quite surprised to read that he had written extensively about Lewis Carroll and his work, although as a mathematician I was long aware of the mathematical implications of Carroll’s works. So I’ll perhaps have to acquire that book for summer reading. However I have long suspected that the more controversial aspects of Carroll have prevented him being enthusiastically claimed by mathematics in the public imagination.

Gardner’s book introduced me the Fibonacci Sequence, and so it is fitting that I saw this the day before. I think he would have loved it.

Nature by Numbers from Cristóbal Vila on Vimeo.

Douglas Adams was the third author. I couldn’t write about authors on Towel Day and not mention him. I have been marking much of the day, but when I’ve been out and about running a few errands, I have always known where my towel was. I reflected how Douglas would have marvelled at the fact that already, many of us already have the closest thing to Hitch Hiker’s Guide in our back pocket, a smart phone connected to Wikipedia, and the rest of the total of human knowledge on the Internet (and the sum total of gibberish too).

Hmm. And having just added more to that pile with more rambling even than usual, I’ll say so long and thanks for all the fish.