searching for ithaca
Lesson of experience #2923: just because the corn chips are labeled "organic" and "all natural" does not mean it is healthy to eat an entire bag of them with the highly addictive "El Pato" tomato/chile sauce while reading Everything and More: a Compact History of Infinity. You will fall asleep on the couch with a stomachache and have unsettling math-dreams.
In the end, the book is probably of interest only to fans of Wallace's other work. His chatty, digressive style works well for his celebrated essays on popular culture, but isn't suited to explaining mathematical concepts that actually require clarity and straightforwardness of presentation. I'd think that people without some background in calc and set theory would find it awfully hard to followI lost him in a couple of his discussions of analysis, a field which, although it constitutes what my dad does for a living and therefore bought my Christmas presents and sent me to college, I understand very little about. I'm fairly certain the fault lies not in obtuseness on my part but on his glossing over important parts of the argument. Having said this, there are great sections scattered through the book, some of which are quite funny, and where the book treats the philosophy rather than the mathematics of infinity, it's reliably illuminating and interesting. I also learned some historical tit-bits I hadn't known, which I will now unscrupulously appropriate for my own book.
I am quite enjoying How to Be Alone, though. In the end The Corrections didn't do it for me, but Franzen makes a fine essayist. The Infamous Harper's Essay, rather than leaving a sour taste in my mouth, made me want to write fiction again: this after a discouraging few days of yet more rejections and general shoveling of shit from the Establishment. Myself and cat, in rented rooms, blowing like tumbleweeds.