a list compiled by Alex Kasman (College of Charleston)

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Gut Symmetries (1997)
Jeanette Winterson

Two love affairs: one between a pair of physicists and the other between the female physicist and her lovers wife. (The author presents this analogy: A love triangle reduced to a line.)

It is often hard to tell the difference between math and physics, both in reality and in fiction. The title implies connections to both. The "gut" in the title is a pun on GUT=Grand Unified Theory, and attempt to unify the forces of particle physics. That is really not mathematics. "Symmetry" in particle physics really has an entirely mathematical meaning, it is not a symmetry in a geometric sense but rather in the sense of abstract algebra. However, the author never really goes into this aspect anywhere in the book. So, it is not for these reasons that I list this here as mathematical fiction.

Instead, this is mathematical fiction because of the frequent -- but occasionally wrongheaded or misleading -- geometric analogies. She uses non-Euclidean geometry as one of the most frequent metaphors throughout the book. Though she sells it short by making it sound as if nobody had thought of the idea of curved surfaces before Riemann (whose name is mispelled in the edition of this book that I read), the analogies still worked for me. For instance, the connection between the idea that "parallel" lines could meet (MUST meet in projective space) is somehow connected to the wife and mistress meeting...this is a non-Euclidean love affair!

The book probably starts being more "literary" when the canibalism comes into it....yes, one character eats part of another...but that was a bit much for me. I'm not able to be very positive about this book, which I thought was merely okay, but the critics seem to have loved it. (There's no accounting for taste, as they say.)

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Works Similar to Gut Symmetries
According to my `secret formula', the following works of mathematical fiction are similar to this one:
  1. Towel Season by Ron Carlson
  2. Tigor (aka The Snowflake Constant) by Peter Stephan Jungk
  3. Nachman by Leonard Michaels
  4. Continuity by Buzz Mauro
  5. Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
  6. Herr Doctor's Wondrous Smile by Vladimir Tasic
  7. Sad Strains of a Gay Waltz by Irene Dische
  8. Buried Alive at the End of the World by Blair Bourrassa
  9. Lost in the Funhouse by John Barth
  10. Cryptology by Leonard Michaels
Ratings for Gut Symmetries:
RatingsHave you seen/read this work of mathematical fiction? Then click here to enter your own votes on its mathematical content and literary quality or send me comments to post on this Webpage.
Mathematical Content:
2/5 (1 votes)
Literary Quality:
4/5 (1 votes)

TopicGeometry/Topology/Trigonometry, Mathematical Physics,

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(Maintained by Alex Kasman, College of Charleston)